If your child is overweight or obese, it doesn’t take your pediatrician to confirm that this condition represents a major risk to their health and lifespan. It also threatens their happiness, their satisfaction in life, and ultimately their energy and productivity.
Studies show that children who are overweight or obese struggle, often throughout their entire lives, with the following issues:
- Low self-esteem.
- Less involvement in active sports or games.
- Reduce opportunities for promotions
- Greatly increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- A shorter lifespan.
- Greater risk of heart disease.
- Missed opportunities for fulfillment (not asked to play by others)
- Unfair judgments by society. Bullied as children.
- Fewer opportunities to participate in enjoyable activities.
- Greater likelihood of becoming disabled earlier in life.
- Dramatically increased likelihood of lifelong obesity and illness.
- Rejection based upon weight and appearance (even if it’s not fair!)
Losing Weight Is Hard Because Changing a Habit Is Hard
Here’s the bottom line: We human beings are all creatures of habits. The habits we develop early in life tend to be the habits that we carry into our later young adult and then adult life.
The habits we have today tend to predict our habits 10 and 20 years from now. This means that your child has habits, and most of these will be there 20 years from now—and most bad habits just get worse.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Children, adolescents, and adults do change, but the most predictable outcome for an overweight child is that they will be overweight or obese as an adult. This is not theory. It is a fact.
As we see in study after study, once we put on weight early in life, for many children and adolescents, it is a lifelong struggle filled with failed attempts to lose weight.
This is both frustrating and unfair. The mistakes that lead to your child living this sort of life are mistakes that you can correct now.
Read this carefully if your child is overweight, as this information can “jumpstart” changes in your parenting strategy today.
Mistake 1: Pretending excess weight will go away on its own.
This is perhaps the biggest mistake we make. We see that our kindergartener or first grader is a bit “pudgy,” or even a tad “overweight,” and we think that they’ll just grow out of it. Maybe the pediatrician makes a comment, and we just discard it because it’s ‘not a big deal’ in our minds.
Statistics show that most children simply do not grow out of it. While some do and become actively involved in aerobic sports and completely change their life habits, it is not a wise parenting choice to rely on such luck.
It is essential to understand that the bad habits that produce an overweight child are the same bad habits that produce an obese teenager, and these are the same bad habits that produce a lifetime of obesity.
The Fix: We must stop ignoring this problem, and pretending it will get better without changing something. The first step is the most important step, and that is to see that our children are at risk. Our choices will not just be affecting them today but will likely be with them for decades.
Once we acknowledge that there is a problem, we can begin to do something about it.
Mistake 2: Trying to convince your child or adolescent to eat better.
Once we’ve identified that there’s a problem, we often start harping on our son or daughter to stop snacking so much, to eat more vegetables, and to get off the couch. If we’re not careful, this can become a parade of constant reminders and nagging and prodding—to try to get them to change their behavior patterns.
As you probably notice, this will not work. In a way, it seems like it should work—if we are there reminding them to make better choices.
The problem is that food habits are very powerful, and they are fundamentally addictive. And usually, simple carbohydrates are the culprit, as these produce increases in our blood sugar and thus appeal to our physiology and our psychology.
And reminders and nagging won’t get us to change. After all, if it was that simple to change our eating habits, we would not see the weight loss industry making billions of dollars yearly telling people how to lose weight. (That doesn’t tend to work either.)
The bottom line here is that nagging or reminding your child or trying to convince them to change their habits will not work. We will predictably fail at this approach as we are trying to use our words to control a behavior pattern. Instead, we need to step into our power if we want to make a difference here.
The Fix: Step into your power by controlling the home environment.
Start focusing today on your choices as a parent, and surrender trying to ‘tell’ your child to change their eating habits. Instead, set up your kitchen so that only healthy choices are available. Purge your pantry and frig, if need be. It’s that simple.
Don’t tell them what they can or can’t have in the pantry while the pantry is filled with junk food. Make it so that pantry only offers healthy options.
The key here is to control what you can control, and that is your home environment. This includes the food found in your kitchen. The foods found in your pantry and frig are within your power. This is where you focus your attention if you are to make progress with an overweight child. If you do so, you will make positive headway.
The bottom line is that we have to shift our focus from trying to control our children’s choices to better control over our choices as parents. Primarily, we must control what food we purchase and how we make this available to children if we want to encourage health and vitality.
WE have power over this. We have the ability to change this. We can make a difference by just changing what is in our home, how we structure meals, and what’s available to our children to eat. This is where we have to start.