The television show, Biggest Loser, has come under fire recently for sending the wrong message to kids about weight loss. Specifically, they are accused of encouraging kids to lose weight quickly and to focus on eating rather than on lifestyle. While I don’t agree with the critics, I do have some serious concerns about the health of our kids. As a pediatrician, I regularly see children who are headed for trouble because they are overweight. I have compiled some tips that I use to encourage parents who are trying to help keep their kids lose weight.
I fully appreciate that this is an enormously emotional issue for many parents who often feel like they are failures if their child is overweight. This is particularly true for mothers who feel responsible for everything that goes awry in a child’s life.
You eat what he eats. The first rule of thumb is to never put a child on a diet alone. This makes an already self-conscious child feel worse about himself. And, it doesn’t work. If the child diets, then the whole family diets. Every member should sit down and eat the same meal. If one child is thin and needs to gain weight, he can eat a second helping, but all the food must be the same.
Keep fruits in a bowl on the counter at all times. Don’t hide healthy foods in the refrigerator. Put them where a child wanting a snack can see them so that he grabs for the fruit before opening the cookie drawer.
Buy foods on the outside of the grocery store. Do not bring packaged foods, soda, cookies, chips, etc in the house. Stick to fresh veggies and dairy. I don’t care if Dad needs chips in a bowl when football comes on, or you need an 11 pm Ghirardelli fix. If either of you needs these, go to 7-11 and eat them in the car.
Two or three times per week, offer small, bite-sized snacks that are sweet or salty. You can buy 100 calorie snacks that will satisfy your child’s sweet tooth or junk food craving and this is fine. Just don’t give in to giving them 10 or 12.
Help shrink your child’s stomach. The best way to do this is to make your child go four to five hours without eating. Kids who snack all the time are hungry all the time.
Teach them to not fear hunger pains. Many kids complain of being “hungry all the time” Most of the time they are responding to growling stomachs and if you know that your child has recently eaten, then tell him that the “pains” will go away. Distract him and let him know that they won’t hurt him.
Keep him moving. Kids who sit too much gain weight more easily. So, turn off the TV, close the computer down and make your child go outside. The fresh air will help him move more.
Stay Positive. Kids who see their parents being encouraging and positive are more likely to succeed at losing weight. So, if you feel discouraged, give yourself a serious pep-talk.