Healthy ways to discuss weight issues with kids (or how to approach the “F” word)

Nutrition Label with circle CUYou love your child more than anything in the world. You want him or her to be happy and healthy. You have a pretty open relationship and can talk about almost anything. But when it comes to talking about weight with kids who are obese or on their way to being overweight, most parents are at a loss. They clam up and let the problem continue to get worse rather than confront the “Fat” issue, because it is such a loaded and complicated subject.

Most children are already self-conscious and sensitive about their weight and may be teased about it at school. Parents are often afraid they might compound the problem if they acknowledge a weight issue. Will my child develop anorexia if I mention her overeating? What if he thinks I don’t love him as much because he’s overweight? Is she overeating because of depression or some other problem?

Some ways to approach a touchy subject

So . . . how can parents bring up this difficult subject without hurting, alienating or making their child feel defensive? Here are some ideas:

Ask for help from your pediatrician. He or she has experience with this and can be neutral and bring up the topic of weight as a health factor, mentioning that the child has gone over the “healthy weight” line and that there are health risks involved. Talking about health, rather than social or cosmetic factors, can open the door to conversations about a healthy lifestyle and how important it is to overall well-being. You can continue the conversation by substituting healthy choices for fattening snacks and letting your child help with food shopping and preparation at home.

Put the focus on yourself. “Wow! Spring is just around the corner and I’ve really packed on some pounds this winter. Do you want to start an exercise program with me? Let’s try to lose some weight before summer.” Find an exercise you both enjoy and then be a partner rather than a superior. You can show, by your example, that regular exercise makes you feel better. You could even make it a family project.

Talk! Once the cat is out of the bag, it might be easier to address your child’s feelings about food. What is he feeling when he overeats? What is bothering her? Try to help them develop other ways to cope with their feelings and get them involved with activities they like rather than turning to food for comfort. Most of all, tell your child that you love them, no matter what.

Avoid isolation

Some kids with weight problems are treated differently by their peers. Encourage friendships; spend time together and let them know you have confidence in their ability to get healthy.

Depression and anxiety – when should you worry?

How do you know if depression is causing your child’s weight gain, or if weight gain is causing her depression? It can be a vicious cycle that’s hard to interpret. Emotional ups and downs are a normal part of growing up and all children will experience some degree of anxiety from time to time. But today’s social pressures are tough, and anxiety disorders and depression can lead to many devastating problems including suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. If you suspect serious depression or an eating disorder, consider consulting with a professional. Howard County Mental Health Authority (hcmha@hcmha.org) and National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Howard County (info.namihch@gmail.com) are good resources for finding local mental health professionals.

To learn more, watch the HCGH Wellness seminar, “Weighing in on Your Child’s Weight,” at bit.ly/hcgh_child_obesity, presented by:

Edisa Padder, M.D., Pediatrician
Robin Toler, M.D., Psychiatrist
Ashli Greenwald, Dietitian
Suzie Jeffreys, Exercise Specialist


0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My Homepage - ... [Trackback] [...] Read More: hocowellandwise.org/2014/04/how-to-approach-the-f-word/ [...]