A Parent’s Guide to Dietary Discussions
diabetes educator and certified health coach with Blue Cross Blue Shield of
that one in
three Michigan children are overweight or obese, it’s crucial that parents
understand the best approach to discussions around health. The physical, mental
and emotional consequences of ignoring a child’s health largely outweigh the
discomfort one might feel addressing it. By opening the dialogue as a family,
young children become empowered to live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
dealing with an overweight child, parents are right to be concerned. Excess
weight can lead to health problems and chronic conditions including: asthma, joint
pain, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol.
Symptoms of these conditions can take effect in early adolescents, during key
developmental years. Overweight children are also at risk of the mental and
emotional torment that comes with teasing, bullying, depression and low
discussing a healthy lifestyle with young children, adults should frame the
conversation in a way that is age-appropriate and relevant to his or her needs.
For every parent, there are ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle without damaging
a child’s body image or self-esteem.
conversations around weight. According to a study in JAMA
Pediatrics, children whose parents talked to them about weight or size were more
likely to adopt unhealthy eating behaviors such as extreme dieting, fasting and
other eating disorders. Rather than identifying the need to lose weight,
parents should focus on the benefits of healthy behaviors, such as increased
energy, serotonin-induced “feel good” moods and focused thoughts.
efforts, not results. Parents should always pay attention to children demonstrating a conscious
effort to eat healthier, exercise or simply learn more about health and
wellness. Any conversation or mention of weight loss should be secondary to
recognizing the benefits of a happier, healthier body and mind.
comparisons. Children should understand early in life that everyone comes in
different shapes and sizes. With the nature of social media and the illusion of
perfection it can create, parents should monitor their child’s use of phones
and other devices. At the end of the day, there is no exact ideal weight that one
should aspire to reach.
- Watch what
you say. Despite what many adults may believe, most children and adolescents
are heavily influenced by their parents. When parents fail to respect their own
bodies, children learn to build self-esteem off appearance. An “I’m so fat”
comment sends the message that weight is more important than health.
should model a healthy lifestyle in the home by making nutritious meals more
readily accessible and physical activity the norm. For example, by providing healthy
breakfast, lunch and dinner options, children will likely make better dietary
choices on their own. Integrating regular physical activity into everyday life can
be as simple as family walks, morning stretches or bedtime yoga. Sedentary time –
television, video games, internet surfing – should be limited to no more than
two hours per day. It’s also a great idea to explore school sports and
recreational programs to ensure that
children and teens are engaged in moderate physical activity for at least 60
minutes every day.