If you have a “fat” or overweight child, you know they suffer a lot from some associated problems. Many grownups carry feelings of self-loathing and self-disappointment following the negative treatment they got during their younger years.
Being fat is not only about what we eat. It’s also about what makes us eat more than what our body requires. A fat kid almost always suffers from low self-image too.
Overweight kids need a healthy, balanced eating plan, together with an emotional plan, which doesn’t damage their self-image any further.
It is always good to help kids handle their overweight at an early stage. Like I have said before, the earlier, the better. It is much easier to manage 2 extra kilos than 5 or, God forbid, 20.
However, first-time parents may be unsure about the healthy range for their child to be in. This is especially true when the child is very young and looks a bit chubby.
A short visit to the doctor can help you decide if your kid needs help or not and how to help them. Once you know where you stand, you will act with confidence.
When Eden was born, she was HUGE (as in “off the charts”). She had a healthy appetite and grew very quickly, and some people commented on her appearance. Being a new mother, I wanted to be sure, so I took her to the doctor, who told me that Eden was OK, because her height was as far off the charts as her weight…
After that, it didn’t bother me when people told me that she was fat. I’m happy it didn’t, because my life as a new mother would have been totally different if I did.
A family can really help kids in their hard task of losing weight. Changing family habits can make it much easier for the struggling child, not to mention that everyone in the family can benefit from it too. It is always better to develop habits that become part of life rather than eating 3-4 months of yucky food.
Instead of making it look like the kid is on a diet because he is fat, it is better to say, “We all need to take care of ourselves and we are all going to eat healthier from now on”. If you present it like this, it is much easier for your child, but requires all other family members to participate.
Remember, it is hard for your kid to eat what you do not have at home. So if you find yourself saying, “He/she eats sweets all the time”, pay attention to what you buy. If you did not have candies at home, your child would not be able to eat them, right?!
Help your overweight child by eliminating temptations
Do not put an obstacle in front of a blind man
I have a very good friend whose teen son is very very very heavy and eats chocolates all the time. She asked me for tips to help him lose weight. I asked her some question to find out where she could make a change.
- Where does he get his chocolates from?
- Does he have his own money?
- Do they sell chocolates in the school Canteen (I know they do not, because it is now illegal in Australia to serve sweets in the school Canteen)?
From her answers, I discovered that the mother, who was a skinny woman herself, ate chocolates “in bulk”. On her shopping list, she had chocolate as a permanent item and she was buying about 3-4kg (9lbs) of chocolate a week!
Get these temptations out of the house. Get rid of the ice creams, the cakes, the snacks, the candies and bring home lots of fruits and vegetables. If you go to the shop and 2/3 of your trolley is in packets and boxes, you are being cruel to your overweight kid.
Make physical activity family fun
Help you kid find a physical activity they can do and enjoy. I would not recommend activities that only highlight their overweight difficulties. If it is hard, find a physical activity you can do together as a family.
Remember, 3-4 months of doing it together with mom and dad could save your kid lots of heartache that otherwise would take years, if not a whole life of struggle.
Help your fat kid by being positive
It is important with an overweight child to emphasise their positive traits and minimize discussion on their physical appearance. The more you focus on their physical look, the more you will damage their self esteem (see self esteem mini-course here, here, here and here).
Find areas in which they are good or could be good and put the focus there: music, chess, art and so on. Avoid areas requiring flexibility, physical strength or speed. The more you focus on the good stuff, the more the kids’ self-esteem will increase and their weight will shrink.
It is important to tell kids that weight is external and is like clothes. We can change it if we want to. Our weight does not determine who we are.
Tell your kid about successful people who are overweight to help them separate the two. Encourage them to look for a healthy, vital, energetic feeling rather than a number (actually, muscle weighs more than fat).
Kids do not need to lose weight so Mom or Dad will be happy or for the kids in their class to love them. Talk to your kids about skinny kids who are not popular to show them these things are not linked.
It is important for kids to maintain a healthy weight in order to feel good, to play the games they want, to participate in all the activities they like and to enjoy their food.
Stop of saying something whenever they eat unhealthy food. Instead, say something good whenever they eat something that is good for them.
Don’t say to them they are lazy and sit in front of the TV all day. Instead, say something positive every time they are physically active.
To help kids with their self-esteem, focus on the things you want instead of the things you do not want for your kids.
As with everything else, change in this area may take time, and at first, you may struggle to find positive things to say. However, YOUR mind must change first, and you will find it easier and easier with practice.
As you learn to see the good in your overweight child, the most wonderful thing will happen – a healthy child will emerge, strong and confident, who thinks “Mom and Dad love me, which means I am good and I can love myself too”.
What more could you ask for?