In today’s world of video games, tablets, and computers technology is quite literally always at our fingertips, allowing us access to limitless entertainment. With this burst of technology has come a change in our lifestyles, we are becoming less active and more sedentary. Because kids are spending more time in front of devices and less time outside playing, childhood obesity has become a serious problem. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 6 children in the United States is obese.
So what should you do if you become concerned about your child’s weight? Here are some strategies for helping your child take back control of his or her weight.
Never use words like “fat” or “overweight” when talking with your child. It is important not to body shame or speak negatively about your child’s weight as such talk can do serious damage to a child’s self-esteem and lead to body image issues that they could deal with for years to come. Instead of focusing on your child’s weight, make your discussions about the reasons why it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle and stay active that have nothing to do with weight, such as to be strong, feel good, have more energy, and be healthy and fit.
Focus on helping your child maintain his weight, not lose weight.
Don’t focus on trying to help your child lose weight, but instead focus on helping him maintain the weight that he is at now and not gain anymore. Trying to put your child on a restrictive diet isn’t a good idea, and monitoring everything that he eats and counting calories is going to make him react negatively. Instead of worrying about helping him lose weight, instead put your focus on helping him maintain the weight that he is at now by cutting back on the things that he eats that aren’t good for him, such as sweets and sugary drinks, and offering him healthy alternatives instead such as fruits and flavored water. Children grow fast, so as long as your child does not continue to gain weight, when he hits his next growth spurt he will grow into his weight and it will even out.
Make sure you are serving him child-size portions.
Parents can make the mistake of serving their children the same size portions that they serve themselves, but children do not need as many calories as we do and should be served smaller portions. Serving children on smaller plates can help keep portion sizes under control. You can also find a guide on appropriate portion sizes for children aged 5 – 11 at healthyalberta.com.
Follow the 5-2-1-0 rule.
Experts recommend that children follow the 5-2-1-0 rule for maintaining a healthy weight. The 5-2-1-0 rule entails 5 fruits and vegetables a day, 2 hours or less of screen time (TV, tablet, video games, computer, etc) a day, 1 hour a day of activity, and 0 sugar-sweetened drinks. If you incorporate this concept into your child’s daily life then you should see a marked slow down in his weight gain and see his weight begin to catch up with his growth and become healthy. Make this a way of life in your home and he is more likely to carry this lifestyle into adulthood and teach it to his own kids one day.
Get active yourself.
There is no greater role model to our children than us as parents. If you are worried about your child’s weight or the amount of time he is spending in front a screen, then show him how much fun playing sports and being outside can be by getting active yourself. Invite your son or daughter to sign up with you for a 5K run or sign up to coach a local soccer team and encourage your child to join the team. Set a goal to get healthy yourself and encourage your child to join you when you are being active. Taking a daily walk or bike ride through the neighborhood together can be great bonding time. If your child thinks that exercise or being outside is boring then make an effort to show him what he is missing.
Consult your child’s doctor.
If you have corrected your child’s portion sizes, implemented the 5-2-1-0 rule, and encouraged him to be more active and his weight gain has not slowed down then it may be time to consult your child’s doctor to make sure there are not any underlining medical issues causing the weight gain. If no medical issues are found and weight gain continues to be a problem, your child’s doctor can help you structure a plan for weight loss.