According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention childhood obesity in U.S. affects more than 12.7 million children and adolescents.
Among the factors that can contribute to weight issues during childhood are:
- Lack of exercise
- Family factors
- Socioeconomic conditions
- Psychological issues
One of the best strategies for reducing obesity in children and adolescents is to improve the exercise and eating habits of your entire family.
Here are some of the steps you can take at your home to help your child succeed:
- Involve the whole family. Make a priority healthy eating and point out how important is the physical activity for the whole family. With this, you’ll avoid singling out the child who is overweight.
- Be a role model. Choose active pastimes and healthy foods for yourself. If you need to lose weight, by doing this you’ll motivate your child to do the same. Children often mimic what they see and they are good learners.
The role that parents play is crucial in helping overweight children to control their weight and to feel loved. Use every opportunity to build your child’s self-esteem. And don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of fitness and health but be sensitive that a child may see your concern as an insult. Always talk to your kids openly, directly, and without being judgmental or critical.
You can also consider the following advice:
- Find reasons to celebrate and praise your child’s efforts. Celebrate small, step-by-step changes but don’t reward with food. To mark your child’s accomplishments you can go to a local park or the bowling alley.
- Be sensitive to your child’s feelings and needs. It is an important lifestyle change to become active for your child to make, but he or she will be more likely to stick to those changes if you let them choose what physical activities are comfortable with.
- Talk to your child about her or his feelings. Help your child find ways to deal with her or his emotions that don’t include eating.
- Help your child focus on positive goals. You can, for example, point out that she or he can run laps in gym class or can now bike for more than 15-20 minutes without getting tired.
- Be patient. Many overweight children as they get taller grow into their extra pounds. Realize, too, that easily can backfire an intense focus on your child’s weight and eating habits, which can lead a child to overeat even more or possibly can make her or him more prone to developing an eating disorder.
Whether your child is currently at a healthy weight or at risk of becoming overweight, you can take proactive measures to keep or get things on the right track. Remember some of these key points:
- Provide plenty of vegetables and fruits
- Limit your child’s consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Eat meals together as a family as often as possible
- Adjust portion sizes appropriately for age
- Limit eating out, especially at fast-food restaurants
- Limit TV and other “screen time” to less than 2 hours a day