Children mostly do not need to lose their excess weight because they tend to naturally lose it as they grow. However, there are times when a child is so overweight that it becomes very difficult for them to do certain activities that their peers are able to. This might lead them to isolate themselves or develop low self-esteem.
In the worst case scenario, they may become prone to chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes that might threaten their life altogether. To avoid this, here are a few things you can do as a parent to protect your child and get them on a path to healthy eating.
Consult a pediatrician
Talk to the child’s doctor and together monitor the child’s health, eating habits, physical activities and everything else needed to help the child get back on track. It’s easy to assume that the child might be overweight due to unhealthy eating habits or lack of physical activity. But there are times when the problem is not related to the obvious.
The cause of the excessive weight might be a medical condition, like a genetic or hormonal problem. The fact is, you cannot know until the doctor conducts an exam and gives a clear diagnosis. If you decide to put in place changes without consulting a doctor, you might end up putting the life of your child in danger.
Get the family involved
If the doctor concludes that the source of weight gain for the child is related to unhealthy eating habits, then the parents should proceed to get the whole family involved in helping the affected child get on a healthy eating plan. It would be unfair to have the child watch everyone else eat meaty and greasy stuff while he/she is only served vegetables.
The purpose of engaging the whole family is so that the child does not feel isolated or feel as if something is wrong with them. Children tend to be in constant need of approval from those around them. They want to feel that they belong somewhere. Therefore, the moment they sense that they’re being treated differently from their siblings, especially when it comes to eating, they might withdraw. Always remember, a family that eats together, stays together.
Lead by example
Children learn by watching or observing. They see what their parents do and imitate them. Therefore, if the parent’s eating habits are unhealthy; children will pick up on that too. Parents can take the lead by enthusiastically eating the food that they want the affected child to be eating.
It is best to not treat the food as a ‘special diet.’ The moment the child senses the difference in the manner that food is treated, they will think of it, in the same manner, they do medicine. They might not welcome it or let alone enjoy it. Thus, instead of, “We will be eating these from now on because they’re high in fiber, protein, and iron. They’re good for your health,” try a more enthusiastic approach; “tonight we’re trying something new! This is so much better and yummy. This is what we will be eating from now on. Try it, you will love it!”
Keep away from diets and supplements
Diets affect the way a child looks at food. Rather than a source of nourishment, they will start to look at it with enemy eyes. Sometimes, rather than think that they’re in control of what they eat, they might feel like the food controls them. Allow the child to enjoy great tasty meals but monitor their portions.
Set a time for their meals and snacks. Instead of starving the child or forcing them to diet, opt for healthier choices of food. You can swap certain high-calorie foods for low-fat ones.
Reward the children by creating a cheat day when they can eat whatever they like but ensure that they do not go over their required calorie intake for the day. If they do, make up for it by serving them healthy low-calorie foods the next day.
Engage the child in physical activity
Get the child involved in physical activities. Obviously, this might be hard considering we live in the age of the iPad, computer games, and television.
It is important for the parents to monitor their children’s social habits. Limit the time they spend on their computers or phones. Get them involved in outdoor activities. Go for a walk with them every now and then. Discover something they like or might like that involves a lot of physical activity and get them to do it every so often.