What Do You Do When Your Child is Overweight?

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It’s common knowledge by now that childhood obesity is on the rise across much of the globe. It’s also not exactly news that it brings with it a whole host of medical problems and complications, both during early years and then later in life. Overweight and obese children are at a much higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, not to mention all the complications that come with those later in life. The doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand have already discussed the medical side, which you can read about here.

The real question though, is what can we do about childhood obesity, particularly when it’s our child? It’s easy to discuss the matter in numbers and statistics, but it’s harder when it’s in our home. Kids are sensitive and an offhand comment about being “fat” can do a lot of harm. There’s no easy way to approach this, but here are a few steps you can take to help your child grow into a healthy adult.

What do you do when your child is overweight?

Encourage exercise
This is huge, and so important. And no, it doesn’t mean that you have to force your child to hop on a treadmill after school. Instead, try to do active things together as a family. Go to the waterpark. Go for a bike ride. Go hiking in Khao Yai. Encourage your children to find a sport they love and help them stick to it (Bangkok has plenty of options). Physical activity will aid their physical and mental development, and it will make it much easier to control their weight. They key here is not to make exercise a chore. Don’t talk about calories burned during a cardio session. Just ask if anyone’s up for another round of Tag or wants to race in the pool.

Don’t diet
Or if you do, don’t make an enormous deal about in front of your children. A diet is short-term solution and you’re trying to help your child establish healthy, sustainable habits that they can carry throughout their life. Instead of forcing your child into a restrictive eating plan that they’ll most likely hate, make small changes that will last.

Set a positive example
As with anything else, children notice what you do and tend to emulate it. If you struggle with your own weight, that’s okay. Make an effort though to exhibit positive habits around your kids. Exercise a bit more. Cook healthy meals with vegetables. Offer slightly smaller portions. Make dessert a special occasion treat, rather than a daily event. If kids see you following your own advice, they’re much more likely to go along with it as well.

You may also be interested in this article from our “Doctor’s Corner” series, brought to you by Samitivej Hospital.

Chubby Kids

Do not ever make it about appearance
This one is tough, and the media these days doesn’t exactly make it easier. It’s essential though that your child realizes maintaining a healthy weight is not about trying to look like the cover model on Men’s or Women’s Health. Avoid telling your child that they would look better if they lose weight. In fact, try to limit the number of times you comment on their appearance. Instead, praise them for being clever, for being funny, for being brave, for being strong and, yes, for being healthy.

Communicate
If you’re child is already significantly overweight or obese, talk to them. This is a hard, awkward conversation to have, but at a certain point you may need to say something. Once again, it’s crucial not to make this about their appearance, and keep it as free from judgement as possible. Talk about how you are concerned about their wellbeing and want to help.

Go through it together
If you have one child who is overweight or obese, don’t single them out. There’s nothing crueler than being forced to munch on carrot sticks while your family members eat fried chicken. Have the whole family make reasonable changes to their lifestyle. Not everyone has to lose weight, but eating a few extra veggies and going for a few more walks with the dog never hurt anyone.

Photo Credit: Matt Preston via Compfight cc

ExpectingExpats.com

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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