9-Step Guide to Helping Your Overweight Child
Overweight and obesity rates are trickling down to our youngest generation, posing great concern regarding their overall wellbeing. Fortunately, there are steps to help your overweight child overcome physical and mental strains, ultimately cultivating a happier and healthier childhood to follow into adult years.
Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term impacts on physical health, including higher risks of sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease, bone and joint problems, and even cancer. But aside from the physical repercussions of carrying excess weight, children considered overweight or obese are oftentimes bullied at school, leading to feelings of isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. Fortunately, there are steps to help your overweight child overcome physical and mental strains, ultimately cultivating a happier and healthier childhood to follow into adult years.
How to Help Your Overweight Child Lose Weight
1. Understand Weight Status
You may even be wondering and questioning, "Is my child overweight?" While their pediatrician can assist in the evaluation, body mass index (BMI) can help determine your child's weight status. Although BMI is not considered the golden standard, the screening tool does serve purpose at a general level. Unlike calculating for adults, BMI is age and gender-specific and better well-known as "BMI-for-age" and uses growth charts to assess patterns, including the following categories for children and teens:
• Healthy Weight: 5th to 84th percentile
• Overweight: 85th to 94th percentile
• Obese: 95th percentile or higher
2. Seek Out Resources
Helping out your child does not have to be a lone task, nor should it be. Seek out available resources to synergize efforts, as the knowledge, skills, and experiences of physicians, registered dietitians, and counselors can be extremely valuable in your child's weight loss success. They can also advise you to safe regimens, including recommendations based on weight patterns, the amount of nutrients needed at various age levels, and supplementation as warranted and needed. It is also important to recognize children should not lose weight in the same fashion as adults, as they are still growing and developing. Kids are more encouraged to maintain weight or gain at a slower rate, though your child's doctor can help determine an appropriate range and target to aim for.
3. Be A Good Role Model
Children tend to mirror their surroundings and follow by example. Being a good role model not only assists your child with weight loss, but cultivates a healthier you, too. And while perfection is subjective, strive to be the best version of yourself, but also owning and learning from mishaps. Doing so normalizes that mistakes do occur, but can be overcome successfully, especially when approached in a positive manner.
4. Open the Discussion
The more hands on deck the better, so open the discussion and involve all family members. Extending the conversation to all avenues helps kids feel more willing to disclose any issues or questions, subsequently granting a learning opportunity. Kids also need support, understanding, and encouragement from caring adults, so remember to actively listen to any concerns they may have.
5. Start Small
A complete overall can be overwhelming and diminish success. Start the journey with small tweaks and changes, including starting the day with a nutritious breakfast, swapping out soda with water, trading candy with a piece of fruit, and lessening trips to the drive thrus. As healthy habits start to develop, you can extend and evolve beneficial behaviors.
6. Improve Eating Habits
Food is one of the greatest, if not the most, influencer on weight. Cleaning up the diet is not only imperative for successful child weight loss, but vital to their physical and mental development. Meals should be balanced with whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean or plant-based proteins, milk and dairy products, and healthy fat sources. In addition to consuming quality foods, be mindful of just how much is being plated and served, along with three meals and two to three snacks spaced throughout the day.
7. Get Active Together
Turn of the television and drop the game controller... Get active as a family to lower the risk of weight gain and obesity for all members, all while building memories together, including going on a hike or bike ride, walking the dog, or playing kickball. Also allow your child to explore various sports and activities in school to not only facilitate weight loss, but build teamwork skills, self-confidence, and more independence.
8. Set Bedtimes
Though sleep is imperative throughout the all lifespans and dependent on age, children are in dire need for at least nine to 10 hours of shuteye each night. Achieving sufficient and adequate sleep assists in weight loss efforts by controlling appetite and heightening energy levels throughout the day, along with enhancing concentration for school. To get the most out of sleep's benefits, set regular bedtimes, considering the hour needing to be ready in the morning and counting backward. Cultivate an environment conducive to sleep by turning off all electronic devices, televisions, and lights and making sure the atmosphere is at a relatively cool and comfortable climate.
9. Embrace the Lifestyle
Remember, successful child weight loss is not a one-and-done type of deal, but rather an ongoing lifestyle. Learn from mistakes, celebrate all victories, and embrace not only a healthy lifestyle, but a healthy life passed onto your child and family!