Encourage Kids to Reach a Healthy Weight

Article by Hans Villarica

Parental involvement is critical to the success of treatment for overweight kids.

In many cases, the adults in a family may be the most effective change agents to help overweight children attain and maintain a healthier weight,” says Myles S. Faith, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

  1. Have specific goals. Don’t tell your children to “eat less and be more active” because it probably won’t motivate them to change. Instead, set behavioral goals, such as “walk 30 minutes each day” or “eat five fruit or vegetable servings daily.” These will be concrete, measurable ways to monitor progress, make adjustments, and celebrate success.
  2. Encourage record-keeping. Instruct your kids to self-monitor or to keep track of specific behaviors every time they occur in a diary, notebook, or Smartphone. Although this is hard work at first, it can help your children become aware of how often they truly do certain behaviors. The mere act of self-monitoring can lead to behavior change.
  3. Praise progress rather than beat up on shortcomings. Instead of always noticing what you child is doing “wrong”, make a conscious effort to carefully watch for and praise small successes, even if it’s just a single bite of a fruit or vegetable. Positive reinforcement can go a long way. Food shouldn’t be used as a reward or withheld as punishment.
  4. Be strategic in planning meals. Whatever is in your house is what your children will eat. Limit temptations and only store healthy foods in your house. When eating away from home, decide on meals and restaurants ahead of time and educate yourself about healthier options at your favorite restaurants.
  5. Practice what you preach. Role modeling leads to better weight control by overweight children. Even if your kid doesn’t immediately follow your lead, you can still be a positive example. Children will learn more from what you show them, than what you tell them. Make it a habit to snack on fruits and vegetables in front of your child. Be consistent and persistent as well.

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