Changing Kids' Lifestyles
Of course, it isn't easy to change another person's habits, even a kid's, but there are right ways to help a child and wrong ways to “try” to help. The first thing is to realize that if kids have lived sedentary lives, then they need to be taught how to live an active life. So invite them to do something fun, like ice skating or going for a walk around a park.
Rather than talk about their weight, talk about the rewards of being active, including how good it feels and how much fun it will be to buy clothes. Do not talk about the health benefits of weight loss or fitness because most kids feel invincible. However, if the child has an illness like diabetes you should talk to them about how much their lives will improve with exercise.
If you feel like you aren't helping your child, consider joining a gym and finding a personal trainer or coach who knows what she is doing and is supportive and accepting rather than tough. Tough love does not help a child develop a lifelong relationship with fitness.
Do not push a child to do more than she is able. If she is overweight, don't force her to run or bike for longer than she can. The most important thing is that you are loving and encouraging. Reward activity, not weight loss. Help a child find a sport or activity she likes and wants to become better at, rather than expecting them to “exercise,” because kids need something that engages them and helps them feel good about themselves.
Of course, inactivity isn't the only problem when it comes to child obesity. Food is also a major issue. If you have a kid who eats vegetables and fruit, and shuns most sugary things, consider yourself lucky — and rare. If not, here are a few things you can do.
First, control breakfast. Some cereals — those with whole grains — are healthy; others — the ones with lots of sugar — aren't. Children who eat a good breakfast not only have better health, they also do better in school (because they aren't tired and their bodies are functioning optimally). Be sure your child's breakfast includes a low-fat protein, a whole grain, and fruits or vegetables. For example, breakfast could be berries in cereal or salsa on eggs.
Reduce the damage lunch can do. Most school lunches are non-nutritious and fattening. If your child wants to buy her lunch, at least read the menu in advance and help her make good choices. Ask her to get a salad, or have an apple to go with the fries. Adding healthy foods is easier to do than refusing unhealthy foods.
With snacks, let your child mix it up between unhealthy and healthy. Rather than riding her about “bad” choices, be sure she has some “good” choices at home; apples with peanut butter, crackers and cheese, salsa and baked chips are all nutritious options.
Eat dinner with your child. This is really one of the most important things you can do with your child, not only for her health but also for her well-being. Once again, focus on low-fat protein, whole grains, and fresh vegetable side dishes. Dessert? Absolutely. Show her that you, too, can enjoy good food in moderation.