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Having a child with a weight problem needs perseverance and patience. An overweight child will typically not achieve their healthy weight range in anything less than six months and an obese child may be looking at several years before they get there.
The key to your child achieving their weight goal is for parents to stay motivated and keep the whole family involved in a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle. So, to keep you on track, I thought I'd remind you of the Ten Commandments for Parents when feeding too-chubby children:
The 10 Commandments for parents
- Avoid using food as a reward for good behaviour.
- Do focus on what they CAN eat, not on what they can't.
- Don't change your family's eating overnight - phase out the old favourites as they run out and introduce new meals gradually.
- Set a good example yourself (Dads especially) - let your kids see you drinking water and enjoying that salad.
- Don't expect one child to eat differently from the rest of the family - obesity is a family issue.
- Don't buy junk food - if it's not at home, they can't eat it.
- Be realistic - weight loss happens slowly but hopefully is permanent.
- See this as an opportunity to encourage healthy eating habits for life.
- Don't put your overweight child down or make them feel deprived. Work at building your child's self-esteem.
- Get involved yourself - kids love one-on-one time walking or throwing a ball with a parent.
Ways to get kids moving
Don't forget, exercise is a significant factor in most children's weight problems. Try these:
- Limit TV and screen games to an hour a day.
- Spend time playing outdoors, visit a park or the beach, go bike riding.
- Encourage them to play a sport or dance.
- Put kids in charge of walking the dog.
- Walk/cycle to school or the shops, if safe.
- Buy toys that require moving like racket games, pool floats, frisbee, badminton, ball games.
- Play with your kids - catching, throwing, running.
- Encourage the kids to do jobs or chores around the house.
- Put on a popular music hit and dance with your kids.
- Remind them that being active is not the same as playing sport. Work on decreasing the time they're sedentary. Have fun.
More help for parents
If you need more help, try these websites and books
- Visit the website of Healthy Active Australia for ideas and resources on exercise.
- The Children's Hospital Westmead has a new children's website with fact sheets on just about everything. Scroll down to Food and then to Obesity to see a list of useful titles you can download. There's A healthy lifestyle for a healthy weight, Healthy snack choices and much more.
- Consider this excellent book by Australian paediatrician Kate Steinbeck and dietitians Maggie Aitken and Anne Marie Droulers. Growing Up, Not Out (Simon & Schuster)
- Sports Dietitians Australia and Lisa Curry have plenty of tips for healthy active kids in Fit Kids (Harper Collins)
- Enlist the help of an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD). For your nearest APD go to the website of the Dietitian's Association of Australia and choose Find a Dietitian or telephone 1800 812 942.