I shared this with my facebook community but thought I’d do the same with my blogging community. I think this photo tells a lot.
I can relate to this photo because I was on diet before I turned 10. I have almost no memories of not being on a diet in my life. In fact some of my most vivid memories are being put on diets or being told I was fat by kids or even coaches, other adults. As all my readers know I was also bullied for nearly 2 years (4th and 5th grades) because I was overweight.
I have to say compared to some of my overweight friends, my parents have actually been pretty great. They did put me on a diet when I was young but overall they tried to be supportive and loving. I did not get a ton of pressure from them to lose weight and I certainly was never told that I was ugly, embarrassing, fat, whatever. I hear such stories from some of my friends and I’m grateful for good parents.
So what is my advice to parents who have a heavier child and don’t know what to do? Here goes:
1. Set the whole family on a healthy lifestyle regiment so that one child is not singled out. Then everyone wins. It could even be a fun project to do together.
2. Explain that it really isn’t about appearance. Its about health, energy, happiness. Perhaps give them examples of athletes, other adults who maintain a healthy weight. (show them my blog about my swims 🙂 )
3. I think a lot of parents feel guilty about their overweight children and that just makes the child feel worse for failing their parents.
4. Do not EVER be embarrassed by your child. This will only teach them to be ashamed of their bodies and could lead to behaviors later on that are far worse than being overweight such as self-abuse, eating disorders, and addiction.
5. Try to avoid using food as a reward or a punishment. It will happen on occasions such as birthdays or at a party and that’s fine but in general find non-food related rewards
6. Avoid equating food as a sin. Do not make a child feel guilty for what they eat. Just encourage the good and move on from the bad. I still struggle with feelings of guilt and even sin when I stray from my diet and I don’t think that is a healthy behavior.
7. Introduce your kids to new food experiences so they don’t think that healthy food=boring food.
8. Involve your kids in the cooking process so they can see what goes into it. A processed packaged meal will never give your children any excitement for fresh, healthy ingredients. Also take them to farms, have them learn how to milk a cow, see where eggs come from, how to make cheese, whatever. This may be a drag for some kids but in the end it will help them build healthy eating habits and a love for good food.
9. Be positive, positive, positive, positive! Even today, I find I need overwhelmingly positive feedback from my trainers and other support. I know what I could improve on. In fact, I’m usually beating myself up more than I probably should and don’t need any help in that department. Any added ‘tough love’ just makes me feel depressed and hopeless
10. Make sure you explain all aspects of health to your child. Meaning physical, mental, spiritual, emotional whatever. All of these aspects are important for a healthy person. Writing in journals, meditating, having honest discussion, learning new things, reading, prayer, other worship, and learning to manage stress are all AS IMPORTANT as our weight.
11. Make sure they have correct information about weightloss, health, etc. Despite all my dieting I never learned that type 2 diabetes was curable. When they diagnosed me as border-line a few years ago, I honestly thought I was going to die. I was petrified. Instead of just scaring kids with words like cancer, heart disease, diabetes. Let’s explain what they really are and how they can be prevented and overcome.
Recently I did a wellness challenge where there were 10 categories of health including 15 minutes of spiritual reading and setting daily goals. I think this type of overall wellness would be a great system for kids.
Now some of you may scoff and say ‘she’s single. What does she know about raising kids?’. Well, I was a kid once and I know intimately what it is like to grow up as a fat kid. I also have kids in my life who I want to support in the right ways; therefore I have given the topic much thought.
Its important to understand that as adults, we are all fighting an uphill battle when it comes to the health of the kids in our lives. They have so much coming at them from the media and even other children and adults at school. We must conscientiously work at fighting this messaging or our kids will get their self-worth from the myriad of other sources trying to claim it.
Unfortunately sometimes people that mean well can be a destructive influence. Celebrities like First Lady Michele Obama have started a ‘war on childhood obesity’. I really wish Mrs. Obama would rethink this wording. I wish she was more focused on health of all children whether they happen to be heavy or skinny. I certainly am proof that an active heavy person can do things that a lazy skinny person could not do.