Talking about weight with children

Since 1980, the number of overweight kids has tripled. According to WebMD, it is harder for parents to broach the issue of weight with their kids, than even sex or drugs. Is it a difficult issue for your family to address? If your child is overweight, how are you helping him/her to get healthy? Here is a survey.

Inspired by Gayle King

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10 Responses to Talking about weight with children

  1. Just a Mom says:

    In my opinion kids eat the way their parents role model. My youngest was a little overweight before her last growth spurt. She has seen me trying to lose weight and she is now exercising more. Also since I started buying healthier foods she eats better.

  2. Jenny says:

    Well my child is 3 1/2, he’s always been on the “stocky” side. But so was I when I was younger. He does love junk food, but he also loves his salads! He eats peppers, tomatoes, carrots, celery etc. The only veg he doesn’t eat is broccoli & cauliflower. Almost every day he asks to eat a salad for lunch. We went out for supper last Friday and he ordered a chef salad. But boy does he love McDonalds & BK too. So I think we do a good job trying to find a balance between healthy & junk food.

  3. SKL says:

    I think this has a lot to do with today’s adults viewing kids as fragile little beings. Can’t say no to them, and then we can’t be honest with them about the results.

    Miss E has a tendency to gain weight easily. She also loves to sit on her booty and do sedentary things. But as her mom, I saw this in her and decided to “nip it in the bud” before it became a potentially emotional problem. I was discouraged by everyone from adjusting her diet. Everyone had an anecdote about a chubby tot who grew into a string bean. But look around – there are fewer and fewer string bean children out there. Obviously not every kid grows out of their baby fat. And there are ways to estimate whether an individual child will or won’t (such as, by looking at his parents).

    So from the time she was 10 months old, I watched her diet. I never let her feel deprived, but I made sure that her intake was balanced and calories were not excessive. I talked about why the food choices were healthy. And almost as soon as she started walking, I made sure she played outside a lot and took long walks, put her in a toddler gymnastics class, and made sure we had physical stuff to do indoors when the weather wasn’t pleasant. So in that way, she was able to “grow out of” her chubbiness after a year or so.

    But she still puts on weight easily. And she now gets most of her weekday meals out of the home, usually in unlimited portions. So I think it’s important for her to hear me say some things about proper eating, and acknowledge that this impacts all aspects of health, including a person’s weight. I don’t focus on weight, but it’s a fact that more net calories lead to more weight, so why hide it? I put more emphasis on stuff like avoiding disease and building strength and energy. I also continue to make sure the kids get plenty of exercise every day (whether they want to or not).

    My kid may still struggle with weight as she grows, but at least she isn’t being set up to fail. She won’t wake up to a realization in middle school that her classmates view her as fat. And if she does start to put on weight after I allow her more choices, she will have a pretty good idea how to deal with it before it gets out of hand.

    My sister was a big eater as a tot, and my mom tried to put her “on a diet,” but my dad would give in to her crying and let her eat too much. She was overweight / obese in school and it really affected her happiness. Still does. Some will theorize that my kid will get an eating disorder and emotional problems from not being allowed to gorge herself. But it seems to me that sitting by while she becomes obese is not exactly going to ensure her health or self-esteem. Of course, only time will tell for sure. I just have to go with what feels right to me now.

    By the way, if this were all about my lifestyle, I’d be fat and so would my other daughter. That’s not the case. Miss A at age 5 is about 32 lbs – hardly a chunk. Until recently, she was not even on the growth chart for weight. (Even before she became a picky eater.) So no, in our case, genetics play a definite role.

  4. Laura says:

    This is a tremendously sensitive topic for me…

    Josh is, at the moment, mirroring both Steve and I as kids. We were both high-energy, skinny kids. And he is that now, too. I just bought him a pair of size 7 Slim pants with adjustable waistband, and we’ve got those elastics pulled almost all the way out!! So he is SUPER skinny. And always on the move. But, he also has my sweet tooth, and Steve’s love of junk food. Fortunately, he also loves veggies and fruits, and will (usually) accept my “eat something that grows” response when he asks me for a snack.

    My approach is to try and teach him to eat balanced as much as possible. Dinners around here, more often than not, are some sort of grilled meat with vegetables or fruits on the side. He is only allowed to buy his lunch once a week at school, the rest of the time he takes his lunch, which consists of a sandwich (usually peanut butter and some sort of fruit), a fruit or veg side, and something sweet, like a Dove Promise. Breakfast runs the gamut from eggs (when we have lots of time) to oatmeal (when we have some time) to a breakfast protein shake (when we’re rushing). I don’t limit his snacks, but neither does he gorge on them.

    I personally have some pretty serious issues with food and exercise. As a kid, I was forced to exercise, and it wasn’t fun. To this day, I absolutely loathe weight lifting, running, anything that is “exercise”. I enjoy bike riding, because that’s fun. Same with things like skating, swimming, etc. But I still have to force myself, every day, to get out and do my walking. I have to start gearing myself up the night before to get out and do it. Because even if I feel good when I’m done, it still has that nasty association that I *have* to do it. And it’s been forced since I was about 8. So I work very, very hard to make exercise with Josh fun; I let him see me going out and exercising, he knows his Dad goes to the gym regularly, but I try very, very hard to shield him from my reluctance and dislike of it. I don’t want to project that to him.

  5. Talking weight issues with a child is an extremely touchy subject. Say the wrong thing and you could mould the way they perceive body image for the rest of their lives. The best way is to lead by example methinks.

  6. Nikki says:

    I think the best way to handle weight issues with your kids is simply give them healthy options. SOME junk food is fine, all in moderation. I try my hardest not to buy a lot of processed foods. I do slack here and there. I’ve been so dang tired this week I did buy him his hot pockets and frozen breakfast meals. He has to have a snack after school, and a snack for him is like a meal for a normal person. He eats a ton, and is still thin. He has extremely high metabolism like his dad, and like I used to.

    But Bailey will eat anything you put in front of him, so I do try to make it healthy.

    There is no need for a child to eat 4 pancakes, 5 sausages…etc. Healthy options, and healthy portions is key. And to be active! No kid should sit around all day watching TV or playing video games.

  7. Joy says:

    I think I agree with most of what everyone else had to say. I was/am a very open parent. I’m really not afraid to bring anything up. I did all the “talks.” But the weight and acne were both things I never wanted to bring up. Toby had both and it was hard. I finally did bring up the acne thinking it had to make him feel terrible and we did go to the dermatologist. Eventually he outgrew it but that was very hard nonetheless. You don’t want someone to feel bed if they don’t already. I felt like if I brought it up and he already wasn’t self conscious about it, I’d make it worse.

    When Toby started gaining weight I didn’t really notice it right away. He was such a skinny child. He didn’t really start gaining until jr. high. I just started eating healthier. I thought like everyone else touched on that we’ll lead by example but that was very hard when you have other family members with different needs. Jason was trying everything in the book to gain weight and there was NO WAY I’d have gotten Paul to eat healthier back then. He finally got the urge himself and lost a LOT of weight. I don’t venture to put a number on it but he wasn’t a little boy anymore. He was in high school.

    This is such an emotional subject for most people. We all KNOW when our clothes get too tight and we all know we need to lose weight when we do but it’s so hard to talk about to someone else. Because we know they know. I think it really depends on how old the child is and the best way to prevent it is EVERYTHING IN MODERATION. Some people are just bigger than others and everyone’s metabolism changes. 13 years ago I lost 50 pounds in 5 months and I’ve spent the last 7 months on this “lifestyle” change and have only lost 30.

  8. Nikki says:

    I guess I didn’t really get into “how” to approach the issue with a child. I am a very open parent also, so the lines of communication with every subject has always been open. If I noticed Bailey gaining too much weight, where I started to get concerned I’d talk to him about it. Ask him, what he thought we could do to be healthier. Because at the end of the day, it is about being healthy not a number you see on the scale. Like Jason, and myself we both struggled to gain weight as children. he still struggles with it. I know it bothers him to be so thin. I do NOT make comments about it, I just really try to make sure he eats good. He always has a good lunch packed whether it’s left overs, or PB & J’s. Bailey was bothered with being too thin last year. We took him off his ADHD med’s for the summer and he gained 10 lbs. He, since then has been able to keep it on. It is very hard to offer the right foods, for those who struggle with different weight problems.

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