Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last couple of decades. They went up by 5% from the late 70s to 2016 (1). Because this is such an alarming trend, it is very important for parents to know how to address the situation and help their children with weight loss and live healthier and longer lives.
If the extra pounds keep piling up and you do not target weight loss immediately, chances are your little one will develop serious health complications now or when they grow older such as digestive and kidney diseases. Some children develop joint pain and breathing difficulties. Others try to overcome the psychological stress that comes with low self esteem, bullying, and stress.
Overweight children are also at risk of developing extremely high cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes, all of which can have a drastic impact on their well-being (2).
If you want to put an end to the dangerous weight gain and do disease control, you’ve come to the right place. We prepared a practical guideline designed to help your overweight child lose weight. Here are tips that may help you get the best weight loss results you’ve been looking for.
1. Become an Adequate Role Model
During the first years of a child’s life, the only way they know how to learn new skills, objects, and language is by imitating and mimicking those around them, including your whole family. The question is, which behavior will your child imitate?
Countless studies show that a young child will imitate a number of behaviors, from simple actions to complex human behavior (3). That same thing will affect their eating habits. The problem is, children are the most susceptible to the serious consequences of bad eating habits. Their nutritional deficiencies can hinder their growth, insulin resistance, and metabolism.
Through role-modeling by the whole family, you develop a healthy relationship and the power to influence or help your child eat healthy foods, stated the National Health Service (4).
So, if you want to help your child eat healthily and aim weight loss, eat the same nutritious foods together. This will set an excellent example. Don’t be picky with your food, so that they will eat theirs as well. Together, you can develop an effective weight loss program and healthy habits. You will encourage your child how to overcome the daily struggles and keep them motivated and inspired through the whole process.
2. Watch the Portion Size
Children tend to have quite the appetite and a separate stomach for desserts. Whenever there is a chocolate treat waiting in the cupboards, it just makes it incredibly difficult to stop munching and achieve weight loss. But, to help your child keep a healthy weight, managing the portions and snacking will be your top priority.
The most common mistake parents make is overestimating how much their child can gobble up in a single meal. This would depend on our child's age.
Do have in mind, however, that if you don’t pay attention to adequate nutrition and healthy meals, losing weight may be difficult for your overweight child. Make sure your child eats plenty of fruits and veggies and incorporates a balanced diet on a day-to-day basis. To make their eating more fun, feel free to make smoothies and fruit juice at home.
3. Less Game Time and More Nap Time
Sleep is a fundamental component in healthy growth, research shows (6). But, the use of cell phones, computers, television, and video games has made children sacrifice hours of sleep just to get more game time.
The problem is, almost 50% of American children don’t get the recommended 9 hours of sleep (7). This is affecting their productivity, effectiveness, vigor, focus, and energy. Sleeping less can increase appetite and hunger, forcing the child to eat more and more food to replenish their lack of energy.
To top it all off, the lack of sleep can cause all sorts of health problems later in life. It can also affect their behavior and mood or mental health. If you want to help your child keep a healthy weight, work on establishing a proper sleeping routine. If your child is not eager to make that change, you can play with your child more often to help them establish better ways for spending the inactive pastimes.
Encourage your child to reduce screen time by teaching them other ways to play. The more energy they spend, the easier it is for them to fall asleep. Try to put them to bed every day at the same time, making sure that they get their 9 hours of sleep. Once you establish that routine, the body will seek rest on its own, allowing for the digestive system and metabolism to function properly. This will make weight loss much easier.
4. Take One Step at a Time
If your child lose weight, it won't happen overnight. Don’t overwhelm your child with drastic diet changes in one day. Instead, you must take weight loss slowly and start small. Try incorporating a couple of changes at a time. Divide them into manageable chunks just so that they will appear more of tweaks rather than challenges.
Begin with one or two of these small lifestyle changes a week:
- Make sure the child doesn’t skip breakfast. Multiple epidemiological studies indicated that skipping breakfast causes a decline in physical and academic performance (8). Also, those who skip the most important meal of the day develop obesity 5 times higher compared to the people who eat breakfast regularly.
- Replace the white rice, white bread, and other refined grains with whole grains. They are a much healthier alternative and are packed with nutrients.
- Swap the sugary drinks with freshly squeezed fruit juice, or change the high-fat products with a low-fat option.
- Avoid eating high calorie foods from your favorite fast food joints more than one time a week. This is an efficient way of reducing the high-caloric intake, which helps your child keep a healthy weight.
- Purchase more veggies and healthy foods rather than cookies, candy, or chips. This will help improve your child's eating habits. Though they might seem tempting, junk food will quickly undermine your weight loss results and cause the body to gain weight.
5. Involve Your Child In the Cooking Process
For your child's diet to be good, you need to create a familiarity with healthy food choices; delicious and nutritious foods. Healthy eating should involve proper meal preparation. That’s where cooking with your child can come in handy. There are a plethora of benefits that come with cooking with a young child.
First, the child gets hands-on experience, which helps them build key life skills and confidence. When the child follows recipes they also perfect their problem-solving skills. Although the information listed in a recipe book might seem simple for a grownup, a preschooler will need some time to get it right.
Secondly, the more they practice, the easier it becomes to promote physical development. Chopping, squeezing, mixing, and spreading, assists with eye-hand coordination and motor skills. Then, there is cognitive development.
The child is encouraged to come up with solutions and creative ideas to take their recipes to the next level. It gives them the opportunity to use their already procured knowledge and apply it when counting, measuring, and following directions.
Even the most stubborn children can benefit from taking part in the cooking process. Once they make something with their own two hands, they will be more eager to consume it. After all, they put in the extra effort to make it and they know how hard it was to create it. That way, your child will have an easier time appreciating the meals they eat.
6. Give Your Child the Motivation to Exercise
In most cases, overweight children would hate the thought of nutrition and physical activity. They would rather spend most of their time playing video games. They just feel drained and extremely exhausted after doing something that a leaner and fitter child can accomplish with ease. This can affect their emotional and physical state.
When the child feels too out of shape to keep up with the rest of their peers, lack of motivation can be a serious issue. No matter what you try, they are just not willing to do any physical activity. Nagging only makes them more resilient. So, now you are worried you are pushing them off the edge.
According to experts, parents have more power than they actually realize (9). There is a lot that you can do to motivate your child to avoid just playing video games and living a sedentary lifestyle and develop a good weight loss program. The first thing you need to do is understand that physical activity looks different for a child.
You can run on a treadmill for half an hour straight. But, a kid will be active in a different way. A young child exercises in short bursts. They end up using their system in various ways and directions. So, you can’t just tell the child to do the same type of physical activity you are doing. They need something more engaging and fun to play with.
For example, start with a game of tag. Get more family members to play in the backyard. Add a reward for whoever wins the most or give them fun challenges to overcome. As long as you incorporate physical activity in the form of a game, you have a bigger chance of getting your overweight child to be physically active.
However, before you get your child to work on their body, you should teach them about the benefits of exercising. There is no need to convince the child to change their interests and hobbies. Just help them get a better picture of how they can keep their body on the right track.
Also, don’t be afraid to listen. Talk with your child about what’s causing them to hate exercise. Ask them if they are being bullied, or do they have trouble breathing. Before you can get the desired result, you must work at the root of the problem.
Having open communication can help you understand your child’s mindset and the ways you can use it to help them. If you don’t think you can handle this part alone, feel free to contact a specialist. Lastly, it is time that you revamp your family activities.
If there is nothing fun to do for the rest of the day, you should be heading out with your child to the nearest trampoline park. Take a hike, make a picnic lunch, do some child-friendly rock climbing, whatever your child prefers. This will make them physically active and losing weight much more easier.
This will get them excited to spend time with you and work out at the same time. When they have something they truly enjoy, exercise becomes a part of daily life, not a chore.
7.Consult Your Child's Doctor
Childhood obesity is often associated with numerous health complications. You will need to consult with specialists to be able to manage these complications. As a part of regular checkup, your child's doctor can assess the child’s BMI and show you where they are on the growth chart.
With a proper diagnosis, you can find out if your child's weight is above what's recommended for his age and height or body mass index (BMI) and how serious that problem can be. The doctor will use the child’s percentile to evaluate their health state. For example, if your kid is in the 90th percentile, they have a 90% lower BMI compared to their peers.
Basically, a BMI percentile that’s between 85th and 94th means that your child is overweight (10). Over 95th percentile is a clear indicator of obesity, while anything higher than the 99th percentile is classified as severe obesity.
Based on the patient’s development and growth patterns, the doctor will guide you on how to do healthy eating. The type of foods your child can and can’t eat, the necessary activity level they need, and how their current health condition is affecting their wellbeing.
If your child is overweight and likewise struggles with psychosocial difficulties, such as poor sleep, depression, sadness, isolation, and anxiety, both psychologists and psychiatrists can help the child overcome these problems. They will recommend the best weight management programs. Most teenagers and young children will greatly benefit from talk therapy. But, if they are struggling with a severe case of depression and anxiety, medication might be necessary.
Nevertheless, it is in your child’s best interest to ask for help. No matter how mild or serious the problem is. With on-time intervention, you will have an easier time avoiding the aftermath of severe obesity. Experts can help you get everything right from the start.
If your child is overweight, you have a serious problem. But it is also a sensitive issue to solve when trying to get a young child to lose weight. It is true that children and teenagers don’t want to constantly have to think about their health state. They just want to enjoy their carefree lives before they become adults.
And this is normal. That’s why it is up to you, the parents, to take on that responsibility to always check your child's weight. Parents are guardians capable of setting the children on the most vital path to success. Instead of bothering and overwhelming them with the things they can’t and can do, we can prepare fun ways to ensure disease control and provide them with a healthy lifestyle.
All the methods and tips listed here can show you the ropes. Have you tried any of the options covered here? Did they work for your child? What kind of obstacles did you face when trying to control your child's weight? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We would love to know what you think!