It’s not always easy to talk to your child about their weight or inactive lifestyle. According to the CDC, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. Being overweight or obese leads to a greater chance of pre-diabetes and diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
While regulated diet and exercise help, they are not always sustainable when a child leaves the home. It’s important that parents find fun physical activities for their child and present them with the tools to eat nutritiously long-term.
“Conquering an addiction requires commitment and support, as well as behavioral therapy and occasional medical intervention,” said Eliza Kingsford, licensed psychotherapist and executive director of Wellspring Camps. “If we think about food as a powerful addiction that affects close to one-third of obese adults in this country, then we cannot assume the solution is as simple as finding motivation to go to the gym. It’s far more complicated than that.
“At Wellspring, we believe in empowering our campers with the weight loss knowledge, motivation, and skills to lose weight successfully both during and after time at camp. We teach our campers how to be self-sufficient in maintaining your weight loss,” said Eliza.
A poor option for weight-loss if the “boot camp.” Boot camps do allow you to lose weight rapidly, but this is done in an environment that forces compliance with a certain set of exercises-and often a restrictive diet-that is not sustainable after the program ends. Many boot camps are also punitive in nature, relying on “tough love” as the motivator, which some might not find so motivating. The result is that many people lose weight at boot camps, only to put it right back on when the camp is finished.
Instead, try things like:
(1) Enrolling your child in a fitness activity that suits their personality. Whether its team building skills, alone-time while swimming, or a combination of a few interests, enjoying physical activity is the first part of creating a long-term love of fitness.
(2) Making food choices a family effort. Have your children accompany you to the grocery store so they can assist in picking out this week’s fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks. When they have a say, they’ll be more likely to eat it.
(3) Similarly, having your child help out with cooking! Passing on basic kitchen skills will help them later in life when they’re living on their own.
(4) Educating them about “diet tricks.” Explain that there is no such thing as a quick fix. Starving yourself, eliminating entire food groups, and working out in only one way will not help long-term.
Each individual should be the best source of motivation and information. Educating your child about sustainable weight loss is key to making sure they won’t become overweight or obese again in the future. Children should know how to recognize and avoid fad teen diets, how to fit exercise into your life in a way that is fun, enjoyable, and effective, and how to eat healthier versions of the food they love.