Childhood obesity is a growing public health problem and one that can affect the long-term health of a person, as well as their confidence while they are still at school. From a physical perspective, it can be fairly easy for a child to lose weight, however, the lifestyle changes and willpower involved can be things that kids often struggle with more than adults. If your child is clinically overweight, then it is a good idea to start encouraging them toward a healthier lifestyle wherever you can, but this can require some sensitivity to how hard the process can feel.
Here are some of the ways you can help your child to lose weight safely, and improve their general habits so that they won’t encounter weight problems again in the future:
Teach Them About Calories
With a growing child, you shouldn’t put them on any kind of strict diet of the type you might consider following yourself. Nutrition is extremely important to their health, and so you need to make sure they have a balanced diet, rather than one geared completely toward weight loss. However, unless they have an underlying medical condition that has caused them to gain weight, it is likely that their diet is to blame. If you yourself, and other members of your household, are also overweight, then this is something you should address by making changes to what you all eat at home, otherwise, it can look hypocritical to a child that they are expected to work hard to lose weight when others don’t have to.
Learn about the science around weight management. For example, how many calories are needed to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight for someone their age, and how to get these calories from foods that will also provide a wide range of nutrients. Help them to understand that the foods they like all have a place in their diet, but those with higher calories need to be enjoyed as treats, rather than regular things. Talk to them and find things together that they like, but which are lower in calories, and make a plan for a diet that they approve of.
Help Them Get More Active
A lot of overweight children dislike exercising, for the simple reason that when you have more weight to carry than is optimal, running around really hurts! Additionally, when they exercise with friends who don’t have the same weight issues, they probably feel a little left out or humiliated because they can’t do the same things the other kids are doing because of their lack of fitness or the extra weight they are carrying. This means you may have a tough job simply telling them to ‘go out and get some exercise’ – they may feel happier with themselves when they are doing other kinds of activities where their weight doesn’t feel like it is penalizing them, like reading or art.
You, therefore, need to help them reach a level of fitness where doing sports and playing physical games with their friends feels good, rather than embarrassing or painful. Go out for walks using a pedometer or fitness watch if you like the idea of ‘gamifying’ their activity, or go on some bike rides. Choose low impact activities that won’t feel hard for them, and do them together, making it nice family time. Walk somewhere together every day and watch how all of this builds up towards them having better fitness, especially when combined with diet and weight loss. You will soon see that they will be ready to start doing higher impact activities.
Dancing and swimming can be activities where kids can have fun while also getting fitter and losing weight. Dancing at home, for example, learning dance moves from video games like Just Dance or from YouTube videos, gives them something fun and physical to do without comparing themselves to other kids. Swimming is good because it takes pressure off of their joints and keeps them cool while they are exercising, so they don’t feel the same discomfort as less fit people usually do when they try and do things like running.
Help Them Find A Sport They Enjoy
Once your child is at a better level of fitness where they feel like they have the confidence to start playing more actively with their friends, it can be a great opportunity to get them into a sport. This can be seen as a kind of reward for all of the hard work of sticking to their diet and keeping up their more moderate exercise, too. Has your child always been drawn to a particular sport, thinking it looks cool when they see people doing it on TV? Whether it is martial arts, ballet, skateboarding, tennis or football, it can be really exciting for a child to find that they are getting fit enough to really enjoy doing an activity they have admired other people doing.
Take some time to try different sports and classes and let them enjoy experimenting until they are ready to choose something they want to keep up. It is best to do it this way so that they feel that they have some options. You don’t want to end up having to buy gear for loads of different sports or clubs that your child loses interest in quickly. Once they have chosen what they want to do, buy them stuff for their new hobby that they will love, such as the best indoor soccer shoes (https://www.shoeguide.org) or a beautiful new outfit to wear for gymnastics. Having things like this will make them excited about their chosen activity and keep them motivated to continue exercising and losing weight.
Depending on how overweight your child is, this process can take anything from a few weeks to months. However, be sure to remind them that even if it seems like a long way off, the time will pass anyway, and so by putting the work in, they can have better health and confidence and a healthier future at the end of it.