What should I do about my child’s weight problem?

Parents who believe their child is overweight may feel a mix of emotions. They might be disappointed and embarrassed because he doesn’t fit some “ideal” or because his situation reminds them of their own struggles with weight. They may be worried about his health and self-image and feel very protective if he’s teased by his peers. Concerned parents may not know how to talk to him or help him lose weight. And frustrated parents may sometimes explode in anger, belittling or blaming him for something that may be beyond his control.

There are various reasons some kids become overweight. Heredity and metabolism are contributing factors for most children. Some kids have only a temporary weight problem that a growth spurt will eliminate. Some, who are not involved in activities outside the home, may spend too much of their time eating. Also, when a child is sedentary, he tends to gain weight.

If a child’s emotional needs are not met, he may try to satisfy himself by eating, and naturally, eating habits, especially over-eating, can have an effect. In rare cases, an underlying medical condition may cause him to be overweight.

If you think your child has a weight problem, check with your pediatrician. You may find his weight is actually within normal bounds, and if it’s not, the doctor can explain why. She also can help plan a safe weight-loss program, offer advice on talking to him about the issue, and refer you to a nutritionist.

Before discussing weight with your child, see if there are changes you can make that might help him. Alter your cooking methods (less frying, more grilling), your buying habits (fewer chips, more pretzels), and the portion sizes you serve. Encourage him to be active; rearrange your schedule so you can drive him to practices, watch his games, take him to friends’ houses, and generally make it easier for him to spend time outdoors.

It’s important to plan what you want to say before talking to your child about being overweight. Ten- to thirteen-year-olds are very sensitive. Use a respectful tone and begin by speaking in general terms about appearances: “Lots of kids your age are concerned about how they look. How do you feel about your appearance?”

He may welcome a chance to talk. Find out how other kids have been treating him. Ask if he would like to try losing weight. If he says yes, work together on a plan to change his—and perhaps the whole family’s—eating and exercise habits. The more cooperative he is, the easier it will be to deal with his problem.

You may find, however, that he becomes defensive when you bring up his weight. He may act distant or angry or speak negatively about himself. This is especially true if you are rigid or harsh or dwell on his appearance. He may overeat as a way of rebelling.

If you encourage him to diet, he may resist your efforts, partly out of fear of drastic change: “Forget it! I just won’t eat as much. I can plan my own diet. Let’s not talk about it anymore!” Instead of arguing back, ask him for suggestions. An idea of his (“I just won’t drink soda and eat dessert”) may work. Offer encouragement: “You’ve got some good plans.” “We’ll try it your way first.” “It may be hard, but I think we can do it.”

Losing weight is very difficult, as most adults have learned, and your child may or may not be successful. Even if he loses weight now, he may regain it later. Be patient and supportive. His self-esteem depends on your unconditional love and acceptance, not your evaluation of his appearance.

Picture Credit : Google