Losing weight is hard at any age, but there are specific challenges for kids. For starters, junk and fast food seem more acceptable for children than adults, and are oftentimes given as rewards. Activity levels in children have decreased over the years as technology has increased. Statistics also suggest that isolated or bullied kids, as well as those in single-parent, low-income, or domestic violence households, tend to overeat (or eat poorly) in response to stress.
Considering one-third of American kids are overweight or obese, it’s about time to recognize the fact that any changes that need to be made should become lifelong habits — especially considering two-thirds of obese children end up being obese in adulthood, which can potentially lead to diabetes, liver disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease. So, if your child is struggling with a weight problem, here’s how to get the whole family to start living a healthier lifestyle.
Address Any Mental Health Issues
Obese children are more apt to be depressed, have low self-esteem, and have a negative body image, but whether or not that’s because of their weight or vice versa should be explored in order to get to the heart of their condition. All the carrot sticks in the world aren’t going to solve a deeply-rooted mental condition, so consider talking to your child’s doctor about the possibility of individual or group/family therapy.
Instructing your kid to get on a treadmill or run laps around the block may be met with resistance, so start by sneaking in exercise through playtime. Family Living Today has lots of great ideas on how to do this. For example, install a swing set in the backyard to help your child develop strength, agility, and various motor skills while contributing to their daily dose of physical fitness. If they show interest in a particular sport, encourage them to try out for a team at school or in a local community league. Make family activity sessions a regular thing — like taking nightly walks after dinner or setting up a volleyball net for an impromptu game.
Involve Your Kids In Mealtime
Despite the fact that you want to encourage healthy food choices, don’t label foods as either “bad” or “good,” as doing so can promote a long-term eating disorder. Instead, slowly introduce healthier foods into their lives by trying out a different recipe once a week while continuing to prepare familiar foods in limited, controlled quantities — eventually, the goal is to phase them out. Involve your kids in the shopping and mealtime planning so they can start to understand the importance of nutrition. Get them involved with the cooking process by assigning them age-appropriate tasks — just make sure you have safe equipment such as a good knife set to safely cut your fruits and veggies. Teach your kids to establish a healthy relationship with food by encouraging them to describe what they’re eating using words like “energized” or “happy.”
Establish A Bedtime And Stick To It
There’s copious evidence floating around with regard to lack of sleep and obesity, and kids are no exception to this rule. Studies indicate that children who sleep fewer than 10 hours a night are three and a half times more likely to be overweight than those who sleep for 12-plus hours. To ensure your kids get enough shuteye, establish a bedtime and wake up time and stick with it seven days a week.
The only way your child is going succeed is if you set a good example by adopting the same habits. Making health and fitness fun can make it feel less like a chore without losing any efficiency. Set goals as a family, but make the rewards non-food based so that you’re separating eating and emotions.
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