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Thursday, March 29, 2018

7 Ways to Help A Child Who is Overweight

Photo by USAG - Humphreys (Flickr)

Childhood obesity affects almost one in five kids and can cause a variety of physical and emotional problems. I talk to dozens of parents each week, and many of them express concern about their child's weight but don't know how to help. As parents, we can implement seven strategies as we address our children's weight challenges and prevent obesity.

Know the Dangers of Child Obesity

Before we can help our kids get healthy, we need to know the dangers of childhood obesity. Kids who are overweight may develop health problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, joint problems, breathing problems, and depression, and overweight kids may also experience bullying and low self-esteem. After we understand these dangers, we're better equipped to encourage our kids to maintain a healthy weight.

Be a Good Role Model

Kids often model what they see, so we parents must practice healthy habits. We must choose healthy foods, stay active, and develop a healthy perspective on our own weight as we model healthy behavior.

Limit Screen Time

The average kid spends two hours a day looking at a screen. I'm all for occasional screen time, but let's encourage our kids to get offline, stand up, and stay moving. Active hobbies, sports, and games help our kids fight obesity and stay healthy.

Promote Good Sleep Hygiene

While there are no definitive studies that prove that a lack of sleep causes obesity in kids, there may be a connection between sleep hygiene and weight gain. Sleep reduces stress, increases our ability to make healthy choices, and gives us energy to stay active. Let's help our kids get enough sleep and establish a healthy lifestyle when we promote good sleep hygiene habits.

  • Relax with a warm bath, meditation, or story time before bed.
  • Cut screen time at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Hang blackout curtains and turn down the thermostat in the bedroom.
  • Maintain the same sleep schedule every day.

Prepare Healthy Meals Together

The foods our kids eat can affect their weight. To fight obesity, I limit sweets in the house and provide fresh fruits and veggies for snacks. My girls also help me shop for groceries and prep meals. As we perform these tasks together, we often can talk about how healthy food choices fuel our bodies, the importance of limiting portions, and ways we can continue making healthy food choices every day.

Talk About Weight

We owe it to our kids to discuss challenging issues, including weight, but these conversations can be difficult. I found several tips that can help parents talk to kids about weight in an honest, non-confrontational way.

  • Ask kids how they feel about their weight instead of telling them they're fat.
  • Discuss ways your kids want to get healthier.
  • Talk about weight in everyday conversations rather than having one big talk.
  • Promote health rather than weight.
  • Avoid judging other people based on their appearance.

Involve the Pros

Sometimes, we need additional help, and that's when we can reach out to professionals our kids trust. A pediatrician, dietitian, therapist, or sports coach can chat with our kids about their weight, healthy habits, and feelings. This conversation can prompt kids to make positive lifestyle changes.

We owe it to our kids to equip them with the tools they need to maintain a healthy weight, so try out these seven strategies to help your overweight child. What other strategies do you use to prompt your kids to get and stay healthy?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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