10 Tips To Help Reduce the Psychological Toll of Childhood Obesity

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Childhood obesity is taking a huge toll on the health of our kids.  Diseases that in the past have only been seen in adults, are (for the first time) being seen in children.  And these are serious medical conditions that can potentially reduce the life span of our children by up to 20 years.

It's clear that something needs to be done to help children make healthier food choices and reduce their risk of life threatening illnesses.   Even the First Lady is getting involved, Michelle Obama recently announced her Let's Move initiative to help solve the epidemic of childhood obesity.

We also need to address the emotional and psychological toll that obesity is taking on our children.  Living with obesity can dramatically effect a child's self-esteem, and in many cases these children can also become severely depressed.

From Life Science - Childhood Obesity Takes Psychological Toll...

"Overweight kids are more likely to have depression and low self-esteem, to be teased or bullied, and to bully other children," said Catherine Davis, associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia. "These can be serious problems for these children."

That's why it is so important to make sure that while helping our kids get to a healthy weight, we do everything in our power to protect their fragile psyches.

But how can we do that?

Here are ten tips that might help...

1.  Become your child's Wellness Role Model.   You can do this by leading through example.  Did you know that if you are overweight, your child's risk of becoming an overweight adult is increased by 25 percent ?  And if both parents are overweight, the risk jumps to 50 percent?  Your children want to be like you, and if they see you making healthy choices, they will want to too.


Unhealthy Eating

2.  Erase the word "diet" from your vocabulary.  The word diet is associated with deprivation, and to children it may even feel like a punishment for being overweight.   So instead of focusing on what is being "taken away,"  try to focus on the healthy and delicious foods that you and your family can enjoy together.

3.  Shop Together.  Talk to your kids about what healthy foods they would like to eat.  Sit down and create a shopping list that includes high-nutrient foods.  And if your child really wants an unhealthy food, try to include it (just in a smaller portion).

4.  Keep your kitchen well stocked with healthy snacks.  To be successful, your child needs to have access to healthy food at any time he or she feels hungry.  So in addition to planning healthy meals, stock up on healthy snacks too.

5.  Read Food Labels Together.  Teach yourself and your children the art of reading a food label.  Pay attention to the ingredients, and of course, portion size.  Steer away from foods that have high fructose corn syrup in them.  Look for foods lower in fat and sodium.

6.  Cook Together.  Cooking with your children not only encourages them to try healthy foods, but it builds self-esteem.  Children feel like they are accomplishing something, and the skills they are building will stay with them for the rest of their life.  With our busy schedules we often lack quality time with our children, and cooking together is a fun activity they are sure to enjoy.

7.  Make mealtime a happy family time.   Sit down and discuss the highlights of your day, rather than eating in front of the television.   Slow down your eating, and enjoy every bite.

8.  Get Moving.  Instead of  gathering around the television snacking together, try doing some fun activities - like dancing, walking, bowling, or gardening.   Ask your kids for some suggestions, and make increasing physical activity fun for the whole family.

9.  Drink more water.  Increasing your families intake of water and start saying "no" to soda.

10.  Most off all...Be Positive.  Leave your judgment, lectures, and nagging at the door.  Instead, encourage and support your child to live their best (most healthy) life.

I hope you'll use these tips regardless of whether or not your child is considered to be overweight or obese.  Your child may be at a healthy weight today, but if he or she is developing unhealthy eating habits now, their future could still include obesity and the health problems associated with it.  As parents, we can have a real influence on the future health of our children by teaching them now the importance of making healthy food choices.  And remember, it's never too late to do this.

Also See:

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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