Kids into shape
  • | October 4, 2016
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Childhood obesity has been linked to prediabetes, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, and more. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and the long-term health effects can be frightening.

Whether your child is overweight or you simply want to set them on the right path towards being a healthier, more active adult, it can be a challenge in the technology age to get them outdoors. These tips will help put you (and your family) on the right track.

  1. Start early. The earlier you can get your child active in sports, exercise, and healthy eating habits the easier it will be for them to continue on that path as teenagers and adults.

  2. Monitor snacking. If you can start early, try to get your children to associate fruit as a snack instead of sweets, or yogurt instead of ice cream. Most everything in the snack food aisle at your local grocery store is loaded with sugar and/or fat. Select healthy alternatives.

  3. Be involved. Could you stand to be in better shape too? Make it a bonding experience. Join a father/son sports league, take walks together, ride your bikes. Make your activity part of the time you share with your child and it will seem less like a chore and more like a bonding experience.

  4. Do not put your child on a restrictive diet. You may want to put your child on a diet to force them to lose weight. First of all, you should always consult with your child’s pediatrician before restricting food to make sure it’s actually a healthy decision. Secondly, the reason many childhood diets fail is the same reason many adult diets fail too and that is because they’re rarely sustainable. Losing weight is not about only eating kale every day, it’s about making healthier choices on a daily basis.

  5. Avoid using food as a punishment or reward. Especially when young, you do not want your child to develop an association between food and behavior. If you withhold food (i.e. going to bed without dinner) you are actually teaching them to fear that food will be scarce which may lead to them overeating to compensate. Likewise, if they associate candy or ice cream with good behavior it may lead them to perceive these foods as more valuable or even comforting. Resist the urge to “reward” a child for eating their vegetables with dessert. This paints vegetables in a poor light.

  6. Encourage exercise and team sports. You don’t’ want to force your child into doing something they don’t want to do but do not be afraid to nudge them in the direction of an activity that will help keep them active. Most areas have some form of youth sports league so encourage participation. Show them that playing Madden on the Xbox is not the only place sports exist!

  7. Do not be afraid to call in the professionals. If your child is struggling with their weight, do not be afraid to take them to a doctor, nutritionist, or personal trainer for help. You may hesitate because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or give them low self-esteem. Try to explain that you love them but you are worried about them and you want them to be healthy. Frame the discussion around being healthy and not just “the weight.”

Childhood obesity is on the rise and it can be a painful thing for children to struggle with. It is easiest to start children at a young age on a healthier, more active path. If they are already a little older then you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get them on the right track. They will be happier, healthier adults for it.

Good luck.