Kids come in many shapes and sizes. Their rapid growth and development take place at different ages and proceed at different rates.
Pressuring kids to lose weight can be counterproductive and can lower their self-esteem, which can be very fragile at this time in their lives. Let your child know you love him or her no matter how he or she looks. Besides, dieting can be harmful during an adolescent’s rapid growth.
Do encourage an active lifestyle. Activity helps control weight, but more importantly, it helps kids feel good about themselves. While some sedentary activities (like doing homework) can be positive, the typical teen watches television more than 20 hours per week; others spend lots of time at the computer or listening to music. Ideally, kids should engage in vigorous activity for 30 minutes, 4-5 times a week, but even some activity is better than none.
Taking responsibility for food choices is one of the many ways kids assert their independence. Some of the best ways you can help your child are by providing a variety of healthful foods at home; being a role model for healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle habits; and showing your kids love and support.
Here are some specific guidelines for the care and feeding of kids:
Let your kids be responsible for what and how much he or she eats.
Foster self-esteem and self-confidence by recognizing accomplishments not related to weight or body size.
Offer to prepare breakfast or have fast, nutritious breakfast foods available.
Be sure that foods you prepare are not high in fat, sugar and salt.
Encourage family meals but avoid stressful conversations at the table.
Teach them to make wise food choices by including them in menu planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation.
Make lifestyle changes without fanfare. Prepare low-fat and lower calorie meals the whole family will enjoy. Stock the fridge with individual bottles of water, juice, and healthy snacks like non-fat yogurt.
Have a variety of healthful snacks on hand (fortified whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables and reduced-fat dips, cheese, pretzels, air popped popcorn, reduced-fat or skim milk and yogurt).
Support (but don’t pressure) participation in sports, exercise or other physical activities. Provide transportation and help with expenses.
Take walks or bike rides together.
Plan active family outings such as ski trips, hiking or swimming or shoot baskets together at a neighborhood gym or park.
Discourage diets, especially for kids. Learn the signs of eating disorders.
Set a good example; make eating well and exercising a part of your lifestyle.
Strive to be non-judgmental when talking about body shapes (your own and others).
Be patient and positive and keep the lines of communication open.