Childhood Obesity: How to Approach the Issue with Your Child
Childhood obesity has become a major problem in the United States and more parents are becoming concerned about their children’s weight. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the obesity rate in children has doubled in the past 30 years and quadrupled in teens. This is a worrying trend considering the health risks associated with childhood obesity. As a parent, it is important to approach the issue of your child’s weight in a sensitive and informed manner. In this article, we will discuss why dealing with a child’s weight can be a touchy subject and how to approach the issue with your child.
Why Dealing with a Child’s Weight Can Be a Touchy Subject
Parenting is a delicate balance of guidance and support. When it comes to a child’s weight, parents often struggle to find the right balance between encouraging healthy habits and damaging their child’s self-esteem. There are two possible scenarios that can arise when a parent comments on their child’s weight:
1. The child might be shamed and develop distorted views of their body image and self-worth, leading to eating disorders, binge eating, depression, and other psychological issues.
2. The child might be missing an opportunity to prevent future health issues associated with being overweight or obese.
A New Study Offers This Guidance: Don’t Make Comments About a Child’s Weight
A study published in the journal Eating & Weight Disorders found that any comment a child (especially girls) remembered hearing about their weight predicted a heavier body mass index and more overall dissatisfaction with their body type, even if weight was not an issue. Other research has been able to link the critical comments of parents to an increased risk of obesity. A government-funded study followed thousands of 10-year-old girls and found that nearly 60% of them had been told by an adult close to them that they were “too fat.” By age 19, those who had been labeled overweight or obese were more likely to be obese, regardless of whether they were actually overweight when they were 10.
How to Approach the Issue of Children, Weight, and Your Concerns
Experts suggest a more delicate and indirect approach when dealing with children’s weight concerns and getting them to eat healthier. Here are some ways that parents can approach this issue:
1. Model Healthy Eating
Sit down and eat meals with your child whenever possible. When you are watching TV with them, prepare yourself (and them) a healthy snack. Model good portion control and how to stop eating once you’ve had enough.
2. Avoid Rewarding and Punishing with Food
Try to avoid labeling foods as good or bad. Find new ways to reward your children for good grades or other major accomplishments. Instead of going for ice cream, let them pick a fun activity to do. And in lieu of letting them pick the restaurant to celebrate, allow them to select the movie for movie night.
3. Allow Them to Help You Prepare Meals
Preparing healthy meals with your children is a great way to bond and model healthy alternatives. It is also a great way to discuss how to make healthy food choices.
4. Avoid Dieting in Front of Them and Refrain from Suggesting That They Go on a Diet
If you decide to go on a diet, you may not want to share the details with your children. Also, be careful how you frame your responses. Instead of saying you are dieting to fit into a dress or look better, you may want to tell them you are trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Childhood obesity is a serious concern that affects the future of our children. As a parent, it is important to approach the issue of your child’s weight in a sensitive and informed manner. Instead of making comments about their weight, try to model healthy eating habits, avoid rewarding and punishing with food, and allow them to help you prepare meals. By implementing these practices, you can positively influence your child’s health and wellbeing, and help them adopt a healthy lifestyle.