Weight Loss For Kids
It’s very easy to blame excess body weight on the obvious high fat foods and sugary drinks that are available in every store, movie theater, and snack machine. Although the ubiquity of unhealthy foods absolutely contributes to weight gain in kids, the obesity epidemic is a holistic lifestyle management issue that is multi-faceted, involving many contributing factors like diet, activity, family lifestyle, and daily routine. Because there is no single precursor to being overweight as a child, it should be approached from all angles in order to create positive lifestyle changes that are sustainable. Weight loss for kids is absolutely possible, but healthy changes should be encouraged with the utmost sensitivity. Here are our tips.
Take an incremental approach. The most ideal way to approach weight loss discussions with kids is incremental, addressing the topic in bits and pieces over time. Having a big talk with kids about weight and healthy choices will only add stress to their lives and possibly cause body-image issues and other insecurities. It is likely, however, that your child may ask you directly about weight concerns. In fact, studies show that it’s possible kids can start being conscious about their body image and appearance as early as age six. Even more alarming is that by age ten, 80% of young American girls have attested to dieting experimentation. It is important to create an open, ongoing dialogue with your kids about health and body weight early on in life so they are educated and informed about healthy lifestyle habits.
Avoid the word “weight.” It may sound ironic, but when talking to your child about weight loss, avoid using the term weight. Although excess weight is a concern, the bigger issue is poor lifestyle choices that contribute to being overweight. Focus on educating kids on healthy ways to live and encouraging positive diet and exercise habits every day.
Be supportive. It goes without saying that the most important thing you can do for your kids is show love, support, and acceptance. Children are less likely to experience feelings of insecurity when they know their parents love and accept them.
Creating space in your family relationships for discussions about healthy habits is a great way to educate and encourage kids to make positive lifestyle changes. The next big challenge is implementing those changes through deliberate and strategic means. The following list details helpful strategies for childhood weight loss that focus on creating positive and sustainable lifestyle habits.
Involve the family
Childhood weight loss goals will be much more attainable when approached as a collective effort within the family. There is no better way to instill healthy living habits within your child than to lead by example. Even though when kids reach grade school, they have more independence in what they choose to eat and their activity level, parents still have a huge hand in the ability to influence and encourage healthy behaviors.
Remove all processed foods
It’s important to remove processed foods from your family’s diet, because these foods have a tendency to cause psychological addiction. Research shows that several foods that contain highly processed additives and unnatural dietary sugars trigger an abnormal amount of dopamine release in the brain, creating euphoric feelings of pleasure. The withdrawal effects of these “highly palatable foods” are similar to those of prescription drugs, causing feelings of depression and anxiety.
Make sure to keep these foods out of the household entirely. Substitute these processed foods with natural foods and, over time, your family will be less tempted to crave sweets and less inclined to overindulge.
Cook at home
Preparing meals at home is the best way to control the ingredients your family eats in meals. This is a great opportunity to show your child that fresh, healthy foods can be delicious without all of the unnatural additives found in over processed junk. Not only does cooking at home give you the ability to use healthy ingredients, it also allows you to exercise portion control. A common misconception in dieting is that certain foods should be excluded altogether, but this is not always the case. Your family can eat lots of different foods in moderation to satisfy cravings without overindulging. This approach to dieting is much more manageable and realistic long-term.
One additional benefit to cooking at home is that it’s a fun event that brings the family together. If your child is old enough, get him or her involved in the cooking process. It’s a great opportunity to educate your child about the health benefits of the ingredients in the meal, so they can become more conscious of eating with intention.
Facilitate family activities
Parents have a lot of influence on kid’s activity level both after school and on the weekend. If kids are not participating in sports already, try to get them involved in a sport that best bits their interest and personality. Encourage them to practice the sports frequently after school. Not only will this be a great way for kids to get exercise, they will hopefully learn that hard work will improve their performance in games, which is very rewarding and confidence boosting.
Another way to get the family out of the house is to plan weekly family activities. Although this may not seem like the easiest thing to accomplish on such a frequent basis, there are low cost activities that parents can facilitate that encourage fitness and fun. Try bringing the family out for a picnic day at a park where everyone can play active games like kickball, tag, four square (bring some chalk), or capture the flag. Or try to get the family involved in a volunteer event that could involve building houses or planting trees.
At Wellspring we believe that kids, whether overweight or not, should learn about healthy food consumption and proper exercise. Understanding how the body and brain functions as a result of diet and activity is information that kids should know early on in life to impact choices they make for the rest of their lives. A major component of our summer weight loss program at Wellspring Camps focuses on educating kids about food benefits, portion control, and proper exercise in a way that cultivates teamwork and fun. Our hope for our campers is that through making positive lifestyle decisions on a daily basis, they will become happier, healthier, stronger and more confident young men and women.
For more information on the Wellspring Camps experience, contact us here.
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