4 Shocking Ways You Could be Making Your Child Fat
By Marna Goldstein and Kim Hiatt, Ph.D.
Do you find yourself stuck when trying to help your child or teen lose weight? Or worse, do you feel helpless as they gain weight? Are you doing all the “right” things, but they are still gaining weight? Does it seem like whatever you say or do doesn’t work – they just don't listen to you? Do you feel like you keep trying to get your family to change their behaviors but nothing has lasting results?
If you can identify with these feelings you are probably wondering what you can do to make things better. One of the most important first steps you can take is to examine what you are saying and doing that could be adding to your child’s weight struggles. In our experience working with families coping with weight issues, we have found that it is common for parents to send well-intentioned but wrong-headed messages to their offspring.
You may be doing this if you:
Put your child or teenager on a diet: It seems logical to encourage an overweight child to diet, but did you know that research shows that for the majority of children and adolescents, diets cause them to gain weight? It’s true. Dieting can lead children to binge eating, emotional eating, and weight gain. There are non-diet approaches to weight loss that will work much better over the long run.
Impose a lot of rules: Have you ever found yourself saying, “You can have sweets but only on special occasions?” Or “you must eat your vegetables at dinner” or “if you put it on your plate, you have to eat it.” Households in which there are a lot of food rules tend to be households with overweight kids who constantly think about eating and look for the opportunity to “break the rules” when they are at school or out with their friends. In addition, the more you attempt to enforce these food rules the less likely your child is to listen to his or her own internal cues – cues that tell a person when to stop eating because they are full.
Nag: If you are constantly bugging your child or teen to eat less or watch what he or she eats, you aren’t doing your child any favors. The same holds true if you frequently talk about your own weight issues. Listen closely to your own conversation. Are you pointing out other overweight people that you see in a negative way? Do you chide yourself out loud for your own physical imperfections? Kids are sharp listeners and they will pick up on what you are saying in ways you probably did not intend them to. Instead of nagging, try inspiring your child. For example, if your child wants to be a baseball player when he grows up, buy him a bat, some balls and a baseball glove. Take him outside a few times a week and practice baseball skills with him. The exercise you get together will help inspire him to reach his goals and see the role losing weight might play in achieving them. This works far better than nagging ever will.
Interrogate: Take a hard look at the questions you ask your child or teenager. Avoid the temptation to put him or her on the spot by asking, “Do you really need to eat that, honey?” Consider asking a different set of questions that focus instead on really getting to know your child and making it clear to him or her that your love is not dependent on the numbers on the family scale. Your child wants to connect with you and be heard. The very act of listening to your son or daughter and acknowledging that child’s dreams, hopes and desires decreases stress, increases self-esteem and boosts overall happiness levels.
If you recognized some of your behaviors in this story, don’t feel guilty. We all make mistakes that we can learn from. When you find yourself resorting to old bad habits, simply resolve to let them go. Your child will be grateful.
Marna Goldstein and Kim Hiatt regularly speak about issues relating to childhood and adolescent overweight and secrets thin families know about weight control. Both women have successfully overcome their own weight-loss difficulties. Goldstein and Hiatt are co-owners of ThinFromWithinKids.com. Goldstein is the author of Naturally Thin Secrets. Hiatt is an adjunct professor of psychology at Southwestern College who recently earned her Ph.D. Her doctorate dissertation was on childhood obesity.
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Keeping Kids Fit – Tips and Ideas
It’s no secret that children aren’t as active as they used to be. As concerned parents we want our kids to be active and healthy but it isn’t always easy to get the kids out there and moving when all they’d rather do is watch TV.
Here are a few kid fitness ideas to help you get started:
Allow time for free play. The things children often do with their friends are great forms of physical activity. Building a snowman, riding bikes around the neighborhood, or playing a game on the playground are excellent ways to keep their bodies healthy while having a great time.
Focus on activity instead of exercise. There are many children who don’t necessarily enjoy team sports and cringe when they hear the word exercise. Use what your child is interested in to get them involved in physical activity. If your son loves to read, take a bike ride to your local library. If your daughter enjoys nature, go for a walk to collect leaves, sticks, and other items to make a collage. Your child may be having so much fun that she may not realize that she is getting exercise! After all, getting your child up and moving is the important part, and it doesn’t have to come by way of a structured exercise class or organized sport.
Make it a family affair. Find physical activities that your whole family can enjoy together. Whether it is taking a bike ride after dinner or playing a game of basketball in the driveway, there are many opportunities for you to enjoy some family time and be physically active as well. Just as family members often sit down to watch a television show together, making the time to get some exercise together contributes to the well-being of your entire family.
Schedule it. People are more likely to stick with something if they make it a part of their regular routine. Physical activity is no different. Schedule in at least one block of time during the day where your child is participating in a physical activity. It could include playing catch in the backyard or going swimming with a friend (or better yet—with a parent!). Mark it down on your daily to-do list and make a decision to stick to it. It’s important for your child to have physical activity built in as part of her daily routine and can have lifelong benefits.
Encouraging your child to participate in physical activities he enjoys (and that you can enjoy together) on a regular basis is important. By making physical activity a priority, your child can cultivate healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Need help with your child’s fitness? Grab your kid fitness tips, nutrition articles and fun kid exercise ideas – Free Kid Fitness Tips
No one really dreams of wasting their life in front of the TV. That goal ranks up there with becoming a professional burger flipper or french fry specialist. Yet, the AVERAGE American spends 4 hours each and every day in front of the TV. That makes the AVERAGE American a part-time couch potato, clocking in 28 hours per week. Is that really the American dream now?
Are you watching TV instead of pursuing your dreams? If so, what message might that you be sending to your children? Would you rather be a living embodiment of someone who pursues their dreams, or an embodiment of couch potato-hood?
What messages does watching TV send to our kids?
First, there are all the messages the TV itself sends out: all the sex, violence, and other messages depending on the shows that your family watches. By watching these shows we legitimize the messages contained within them.
Second, there is the message we send by our example. We demonstrate to our kids how to interact with the world when we are watching TV, especially when we do it for four hours a day. We are passive. We hypnotically accept most of what is presented. We are isolated from the world. We do not actively engage the world. Time wise, we also show our kids that TV is the most important thing in life after sleep and work.
Third, there is the message we send out by omission. We demonstrate everything else that we are not doing when we watch TV. We are NOT showing by example how to take care of responsibilities. Our minds are NOT focused on reality. We are NOT physically active. We are NOT pursuing our dreams. We are sending the message to our children that watching TV is more important than pursuing our dreams. The average American child may be surprised to find their parents have dreams beyond Saturday Night Football.
What are your dreams?
In order to set a good example of following your dreams, you may wish to consider strictly limiting, or eliminating TV from your life. When people are involved in pursuing their dreams they often find that they do not have the time to watch TV. TV just gets in the way of pursuing other dreams.
Although you won't magically have your dreams materialize, once you get control over--or get rid of--your TV, you may find that you may have the time to pursue your other dreams. You will have time to build a happy family and an exciting marriage. You will have time to pursue the health and body you desire. You will have time to build communities with your neighbors. You will have time to play an active role in your church or religious institution. You will have time to play an active role in social or political groups. You will have time to do charity work. You will have time to start your own business. Whatever your dreams are, you will have the time to pursue them.
What would happen if all Americans threw their televisions out their windows today and started pursuing their dreams? What if the entrepreneurs focused their energy on building their businesses? What if all the moms and dads in this country started devoting more of their time to building the type of family they had always dreamed of having. What if communities came together to pursue their common dreams. It could literally change the world. Or we Americans could go on as we are now, passively letting our dreams pass us by, stuck in a hypnotic daze in front of the TV.
Turn OFF your TV and follow your dreams!
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About the author: Katherine Westphal is the founder of a daring new website Trash Your TV!, that makes it fun and easy for people to get control of their TV set. Are you addicted to TV? Take our TV Addiction Quiz and find out!