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4 Shocking Ways You Could Be Making Your Child Fat
Do you find yourself stuck when trying to help your children lose weight? Or worse, do you feel helpless as they gain weight? Are you doing all the “right” things, but your child is still gaining weight? Does it seem like whatever you say or do doesn’t work – they just don't listen to you? Do you feel like you keep trying to get your family to change their behaviors but nothing has lasting results?
If you can identify with these feelings you are probably wondering what you can do to make things better. One of the most important first steps you can take is to examine what you are saying and doing that could be adding to your child’s weight struggles. In our experience working with families coping with weight issues, we have found that it is common for parents to send well-intentioned but wrong-headed messages to their offspring.
You may be doing this if you:
Put your child on a diet: It seems logical to encourage an overweight child to diet, but did you know that research shows that for the majority of children and adolescents, diets cause them to gain weight? It’s true. Dieting can lead children to binge eating, emotional eating and weight gain. There are non-diet approaches to weight loss that will work much better over the long run.
Impose a lot of rules: Have you ever found yourself saying, “You can have sweets but only on special occasions?” Or “you must eat your vegetables at dinner” or “if you put it on your plate, you have to eat it.” Households in which there are a lot of food rules tend to be households with overweight kids who constantly think about eating and look for the opportunity to “break the rules” when they are at school or out with their friends. In addition, the more you attempt to enforce these food rules the less likely your child is to listen to his or her own internal cues – cues that tell a person when to stop eating because they are full.
Nag: If you are constantly bugging your child to eat less or watch what he or she eats, you aren’t doing your child any favors. The same holds true if you frequently talk about your own weight issues. Listen closely to your own conversation. Are you pointing out other overweight people that you see in a negative way? Do you chide yourself out loud for your own physical imperfections? Kids are sharp listeners and they will pick up on what you are saying in ways you probably did not intend them to. Instead of nagging, try inspiring your child. For example, if your child wants to be a baseball player when he grows up, buy him a bat, some balls and a baseball glove. Take him outside a few times a week and practice baseball skills with him. The exercise you get together will help inspire him to reach his goals and see the role losing weight might play in achieving them. This works far better than nagging ever will.
Interrogate: Take a hard look at the questions you ask your child. Avoid the temptation to put him or her on the spot by asking, “Do you really need to eat that, honey?” Consider asking a different set of questions that focus instead on really getting to know your child and making it clear to him or her that your love is not dependent on the numbers on the family scale. Your child wants to connect with you and be heard. The very act of listening to your son or daughter and acknowledging that child’s dreams, hopes and desires decreases stress, increases self-esteem and boosts overall happiness levels.
If you recognized some of your behaviors in this story, don’t feel guilty. We all make mistakes that we can learn from. When you find yourself resorting to old bad habits, simply resolve to let them go. Your child will be grateful.
Marna Goldstein and Kim Hiatt regularly speak about issues relating to childhood obesity and secrets thin families know about weight control. Both women have successfully overcome their own weight-loss difficulties. Goldstein and Hiatt are co-owners of ThinFromWithinKids.com. Goldstein is the author of Naturally Thin Secrets. Hiatt is an adjunct professor of psychology at Southwestern College who recently earned her Ph.D. Her doctorate dissertation was on childhood obesity.
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