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Helping Your Child Lose Weight

Helping Your Child Lose Weight

I was a chubby child. My mother, out of love and fear, tried everything to help me lose weight - bribes, threats, punishment, diets, commiseration, even hypnotism and diet pills. I usually lost weight, only to put it back on shortly after she stopped doing whatever she was doing. Her biggest worry was that I'd be unhappy - that I'd be picked on and unpopular, and no one would like me because I was fat. Now that I'm a mother myself, I can completely sympathize with her motives, but these days my concerns about my children's weight are far more serious than a little name-calling.

While the name-calling can be devastating, what's frightening these days is the growing evidence that obesity leads to serious health complications, even in young children. Doctors find that they're diagnosing children as young as ten or eleven years old with conditions that were once the province of middle-aged people. Diabetes, heart conditions, and arthritis - all of these conditions have a clear established connection with obesity, and more and more often, they are being seen BEFORE children reach adulthood. It's enough to scare a mother into the extreme methods that my mother used to try to take the pounds off of me, but there are healthier ways to help your child lose weight.

First: Consult a Doctor

Don't decide on your own that your child needs to lose weight. Many of us have grown up with distorted body images that we pass on to our children. Be sure that you're not seeing your child through your own misconceptions about 'ideals', and let a doctor make the judgment call.

If your doctor agrees that your child is overweight and should take off some pounds, your best bet is to serve up a healthy daily diet within the USDA Food Pyramid Guidelines and encourage daily exercise to help rev up his internal motors. Beyond that, here are tips for helping your child lose weight - while retaining a positive self-image.

* Put EVERYONE on a diet. Seriously. Since the best way for your child to lose weight is to eat a healthy, balanced diet in normal proportions, doesn't it make sense that your entire family will benefit from eating the same way? Your dieting child will feel far less deprived if everyone is eating the same foods.

* Serve an after school snack. It may be tempting to cut out the after school snacks, but the truth is you'll be doing harm rather than good. The human body was never designed for the 'three square meals a day' regimen that has been the norm for decades. A healthy snack in the mid-afternoon will provide fuel for afternoon play and stave off the 'I'm STARVING' feeling that leads to overeating at dinner.

* Shop smart. Leave the cookies and chips on the shelf, and instead grab the low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and fruit cups, sugar free applesauce and other natural treats. If you make healthy snacks available and unhealthy ones hard to find, you'll keep temptation out of the way.

* Exercise with them regularly. Instead of just shooing them out to play - or taking away the Game boy, go out WITH them. Pull together a neighborhood kickball game, or take a walk around the block as a family. If you can get a family membership to a health club with a pool, make a family swim a once-a-week event. It's more than setting an example - it's having fun with your kids.

* Cook JUST enough food. Instead of trying to limit portions on the plate, limit them BEFORE you cook. Only prepare ONE portion per family member. That heads off requests for seconds before they even start asking. No, you can't have the last piece of chicken -- because there isn't one to have.

Follow those five suggestions, and chances are that no one in your family will even realize that someone is on a diet. And everyone will be healthier and happier.



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