Picture Perfect? Not in this year’s camp pics!

If you want proof that the kids and teens of our society have a weight problem, are obese, all you have to do is check out the online camp photos of any overnight camp this year compared with last year or the year before. Seeing is believing – and shocking. It’s time we realize our kids are collectively eating too much and not moving enough.

I hear from families that their kids are often but the waist lines of kids, and parents, would state otherwise. Strolling through the food court at any mall is testimony that today’s family has a problem. It’s fine for families to eat out once in a while and fast food on occasion need not be a calorie killer but these kids are not just eating a bit of calories, they are eating 2-3 times their daily calories in one sitting. It isn’t uncommon to see a small elementary school child or a middle school child downing a super sized fast food meal complete with a milk shake. Someone needs to shake these parents, look them in the eye and yell STOP!

At any age, being overweight is a combination of eating too much and not moving enough. There is no such thing as “baby fat” so we have to stop using that term and deluding ourselves that our overweight and obese kids will just shed those extra pounds because they are kids.

We also have to stop linking our kids’ bodies to our past histories. Many parents will say “he’s just like his dad” or “I was just like that as a kid”.  Just because one of us had a weight issue as a child doesn’t mean our kids will shed the pounds the same way or at all. And, you know what? For us to shed those pounds we all had to eat less and move more. There were no short cuts.

Let’s stop denying our kids have a problem. A new school year is approaching and this can be a great time to clean the slate and help our kids become more healthy. Here’s what I would suggest:

1. Make healthy eating the goal for all, not dieting. This helps put the focus on “health” and creates a life long plan.

2. Find ways to get your child move more – start slow and build and don’t compare your child to other kids or to you or your spouse. Family pressure with sports is one of the worst motivators.

3. Help your child dress appropriately. There is nothing worse than seeing an overweight child dress like they are thin. There are many clothing options out there for kids of all body types. Find some clothes that help your child look neat and feel confident. If your child doesn’t feel like a slop, at whatever weight your child is, that will help keep your child motivated while shedding pounds.

4. Don’t deny the issue! This is very important. It’s ok to admit that your child has a weight problem without placing blame. In many ways, we are all always working on our bodies. One way to frame this is to say “when our bodies gain weight it is a signal from our body that we have to eat more healthy and move more. We all should be doing that. If you do that with our help, since you are still growing, the pounds will come off fairly quickly and you’ll learn what many adults take until our age to learn!”

5. Don’t ban food. Even eating healthy and shedding pounds treats are ok. The key is balance and portion control. So, if a birthday party or holiday comes up, help your child have a small piece of cake or one piece of candy. Look for treats like the Weight Watchers desserts that are low in calories and a good, occasional dessert.

6. Involve your pediatrician to help follow blood pressure and cholesterol.

7. Consider a nutritionist if you feel overwhelmed or are unsure how to eat a balanced diet. Keep in mind what works for you as an adult may not work for your growing child.

8. Programs like weight watchers are fine for kids and teens! In fact, they help kids learn great habits. Many health clubs and YMCAs have similar healthy living/eating programs.

9. If you have a weight problem, don’t deny it and work on it with your child.

10. Have your child cook with you in the kitchen. The more home cooked meals you all have, the healthier you all will be – and at healthier weights.

The new school year can be the best time to clean the slate and set everyone in a new, healthier direction. Every family can do something better where healthy eating and exercise are concerned. Figure out what your family has to tackle and tackle it. This is the year of no more excuses.

Comments

  1. Excellent post Dr Gwenn! I admit to stating we take after a certain side of the family. i thought genetics did play a role in weight.?

    On the other hand..I can see where verbalizing that is like telling a child they are bad. they live up to the label… instead of being encouraged to have good behavior.

    Apples and oranges.. I know. 🙂

  2. Inner city kids tend to be a LOT fatter than suburban kids with access to team sports, yards, etc. Seems like a lot of the obesity in our society plagues those of lower economic status for a variety of reasons (McDonald's hamburgers are cheaper than their salads). People have to take responsibility for the health of their children, but it seems like an unbreakable cycle on the front lines.

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  4. Callie Durbrow says:

    This is a great post! I do agree that you have to tackle the issue but in a way that does not "label" the child. Encouraging activity and limiting tv/video game time will help a lot. If the whole family is on a healthy eating schedule, it makes it much easier for the child. Keep up the great work!

  5. Dr. Gwenn says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. You are right about inner city kids, TR, but I'm noticing a trend in increased sizes in the 'burbs as well with parents not home as much and everyone using more "grab and go" meals. I'm hearing of way too many people dining in the car on the way to and from activities.

    My view is if a family can't fit in a family dinner, that family is too busy. That's the motto we use and have cut out activities when we notice we can't get in down time and things like proper eating – those things are way too important!