The obesity epidemic, especially as it relates to children, has been a topic of great debate recently. Who’s to blame? Food companies? Advertising? The government? Parents? While the increase in the number of overweight and obese children cannot be attributed to one single cause, a recent study showed that parents are an important part of the solution.
In the study, the overweight children of parents who received both lifestyle education and parenting skills training had greater reductions in BMI than the children of parents who only received lifestyle education. Basically, these results show that information alone is not enough. Parents need strategies and skills to help their children adopt a healthier lifestyle. The sessions on parenting skills used the Positive Parenting Program and coached parents on managing situations that are likely to lead to kids overeating by using a problem-solving approach.
Helping overweight children lose weight can be a tricky balancing act; you want to encourage a healthier lifestyle while avoiding disparaging the child or placing blame so you can conserve their sense of self worth. The goal with overweight and obese children is not actually weight loss, but weight maintenance, allowing the child to grow into their weight. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Lead by example. Eat your greens, turn off the TV and walk instead of drive.
- Cut liquid calories. Gradually dilute juice with water, switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and make soda an occasional treat.
- Don’t become a diet dictator, but let your child choose from a few healthy options.
- Involve your kids in menu planning, shopping and preparing meals.
- Don’t single out your kid. The whole family should participate in making healthy choices, including eating the same foods and finding fun activities to do together such as bowling, skating or biking.