It doesn’t feel good to be hanging on to some extra weight. And a good majority of our population knows this fact by experience. What is a common problem for adults has created a multi-billion dollar industry in ways to let go of some of that girth – from diet foods, to detoxes, to laser surgery, to good old-fashioned PhotoShop. But the issues with weight don’t stop with adults. Nowadays kids are also battling the bulge. And no wonder – the increase in technology and convenient foods high in fat have promoted a sedentary way of life for our kids. Kids these days…. When I was a kid we used to walk uphill both ways with rocks in our shoes. Seriously, though, there was no cable television. There was no Facebook. And video games weren’t all that addicting, so we actually preferred to play outside. Kids these days are way too engrossed in virtual entertainment. And the result is a child who is growing sideways, with a self esteem that is diminishing just as fast. And their way of dealing with it is to continue hanging out in front of the TV or computer, munching on food because it feels good in that moment.
But believe me, your child doesn’t want to be overweight. They want to be a healthier version of kids their age. They may even feel “eater’s remorse” after indulging in something sinful, just like adults tend to do. They may even know what foods they should avoid, and that they should be getting up off the couch and moving around. But they don’t know how to start.
It’s up to us to show them how. And it’s our responsibility to promote a healthier way of living.
I am not immune to this dilemma. The Taz is ending the summer roughly 30 pounds overweight. Last summer, he looked just like the other kids his age. He was active in sports, could run fast, and enjoyed playing outside. But over the year, the weight crept up. He was snacking a lot more frequently, something I excused with growth spurts. He was playing outside a lot less, preferring to play with his video games. When he did go outside to play with his friends it was to hang out at their houses, eat their food, and play their video games. And the Taz stopped having the energy to play the way he used to. And soon I realized that the Taz had put on more than just a little baby fat. The kid was actually hanging over his jeans.
And the Taz was aware of his body image. He saw how his friends were skinnier. He wasn’t ignorant of the fact that the kids on his baseball team were faster than him. Whenever I took a picture of him, he quickly sucked in his stomach and puffed out his chest to make himself appear thinner. He finally asked me to help him lose the weight, telling me of his desire to start eating healthier. Week one came and went, and the Taz was eating smaller, healthier meals and nixing the snacks in between. He was even exercising a bit with me. But after that first week, his interest in working at it wore thin. And he gave up. He’d give me lip service about eating healthy, and then go to his friends’ homes where he’d drink several sodas and gorge on junk food. And he’d sneak his money outside and buy all sorts of junk from the man who rides around our neighborhood selling goodies from his bike.
I’ll admit, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to promote a healthy way of eating and living when my son is unwilling to be a part of the process. It’s frustrating, to say the least. And I admit, it pisses me off. It makes me angry that he feels inferior to those around him because he is bigger, so embarassed by his body that he won’t even take his shirt off comfortably when we go swimming. It makes me angry that he wants to become healthier, but not enough to actually make the effort. It makes me angry that there are so many targets out there aimed at children, like video games and high calorie kid meals, that make it even harder for them to even have the desire to be healthy. How can healthy living win out when the alternative is so much more appealing? And it makes me angry that I have dropped the ball and have allowed him to gain weight. But I haven’t given up. The most recent development on this path is that we’ve started taking family walks in the evening. It’s become something that we all look forward to every evening. The Taz walks with us for one lap, and then skateboards the second half. And while I cannot easily stop him from eating unhealthy food at his friends’ homes, I can continue encouraging healthier eating at home, and continue creating a habit that will hopefully become second-nature.
I also found some great tips written by Dr. Holly Atkinson, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Medical Correspondent for HealthiNation. She encourages parents of overweight children to emotionally support children, letting them know they are loved and accepted no matter what their size is. She also mentions that parents should be the role model when it comes to changes an overweight child should make to become healthier. “Children look to their parents as their models. If you eat healthy foods, your child will too. If you exercise, they are more likely to exercise.” And it’s a good idea to limit the amount of TV watching, computer, and video games your child is playing. To see more of Holly’s tips, check them out in the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.
What are your thoughts on weight gain in kids? Is there any easy way to prevent obesity in kids? Are there uncommonly known things about our society that is actually encouraging this weight gain? And what happens after our kids have gained an abnormal amount of weight, how can we turn things around?