Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S.
The CDC reports that the number of kids affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.
So how do you help a child who struggles with weight issues?
Sanford Dietician Rachel Iverson says it’s a sensitive subject and can be very tricky for a parent to address with a child on their own.
She says even the most innocent comments about a child’s weight can trigger very negative emotions, which is why it’s important to involve a pediatrician or dietician.
“I guarantee you, whatever you’re thinking about their weight, they’re thinking things that are 10 times worse,” says Iverson. “So you don’t want to encourage that kind of mental cycle of guilt and pain and binge eating that is going to come out of those emotions because it’s not going to help them be healthier in the long run.”
So how do you help a child lose weight and develop a healthy lifestyle without damaging their psyche?
Iverson says first, do not single anybody out.
It is important for the entire family to be involved in healthy eating habits.
According to the CDC, we should not talk about “bad foods” or ban all sweets and snacks. This may encourage kids to rebel and overeat “forbidden foods” outside of the home, or sneak them on their own.
Don’t have a clean-plate policy, and reinforce the idea to only eat when hungry.
Don’t reward kids for good behavior or try to stop bad behavior with sweets or treats.
And finally, remember that the goal for children who are overweight is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development, and not to simply put your child on a diet.
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