One in three children, tweens, and teens are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But just because it's common doesn't mean it's healthy, and it doesn't mean it's not a sensitive subject. If your child is overweight, how can you help without being overbearing? Keep reading for four key tips from Circle of Moms members.
Take a Look at Diet, Not a Look at Diets
Before you rush to put your child on a diet, mom Ann S. suggests evaluating what the word "diet" means to you and your child. After all, she points out, diet is simply a word that means "the usual food and drink of a person," and looking at your child's current diet may help you make changes to his future diet without making weight the main issue.
Make Family Changes
Making dietary and other lifestyle changes might be a shock to the system, but it's better if it's a shock to everyone's system, not just that of your overweight child. Changing the types of food he eats without the rest of the family making changes can make your child feel singled out, a problem that many moms say led to their own unhealthy relationships with food as they were growing up.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation sums this approach up in a catchy and actionable phrase: Live Healthier. They say it's all about living healthier and getting moving, something with which moms agree.
Elizabeth H. suggests getting the whole family up and moving daily, whether it's for a family walk or a bike ride. Tracy A. says you don't even have to leave your house, just put on some music and let your child dance. (She says you can even have them vacuum at the same time to combine health and chores.)
Teach Your Child to HALT
Eating healthier can be a little trickier than getting moving, especially if your child is a comfort eater, which, as mom Danielle points out isn't as much about food as it is about covering up unpleasant feelings. She suggests your family start using a method commonly used in addiction recovery: H.A.L.T.
It's a method other moms say they use as a way to understand behavioral issues in their children and it stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, common things that trigger an unhealthy behavior. If your child can honestly say "no" to the first, then they shouldn't be heading to the kitchen. Of course, if your child is comfort-eating as a way to express feelings, it's also a good idea to help find them someone to talk to who can help them learn to express feelings more appropriately.
Check With the Doctor
Moms aren't in agreement about when to talk to a doctor or counselor about your child's weight issues. One mother, Michele, says she took her son to the doctor only after they had implemented dietary and lifestyle changes and he still wasn't losing weight. Jeannie V. disagrees, saying that a total check-up is the place to start before making changes.
The answer may lie somewhere in between. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation says helping overweight children is a collaborative effort among everyone in a child's environment — family, school, doctor, and community. It may not be a quick fix, but teaching your child better habits over time can help an overweight child become healthier for a lifetime.