“Fat” kids suffer a lot from problems associated with being overweight. Many grown ups carry feelings of self-loathing and self-disappointment following the negative treatment they got during their younger years.
It is always good to help kids handle their overweight at an early stage (like I have said before, the earlier, the better). However, first-time parents may be unsure as to the healthy range for their child to be in, especially when the child is very young and looks a bit chubby. A short visit to the doctor can help you decide if you 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, those who commented got a confident lecture for their trouble.
It is important with overweight kids 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.
Instead of saying something whenever they eat unhealthy food, say something good whenever they eat something that is good for them.
Instead of saying to them they are lazy and sit in front of the TV all day, 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?