Overweight Kids

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?


4 thoughts on “Overweight Kids

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  1. Many kids of divorced parrents eat to soothe themselves. Your being angry with him isnt helping. He knows he is overweight. He is eating to fill the hole in his life you created when you left him fatherless (except for two weeks a year).

    I will bet if you offer him this “i’ll give up dating and only focus on you untill your 18” You may find he would be willing to exercise more and might be able to give up eating to fill a hole in his life for love. He has a screwed up family life with a boyfriend and multiple kids from the boyfriend to figure out. He has to compete with your boyfriend for you love. He feels bad eats to feel good and then feels bad for eating ; then he eats to feel better.

    Sorry to be so harsh but you just don’t seem to get it. Your kids don’t have a choice…You are the grown up you chose to have kids now choose to do whats right for them not what “feels good” for you.

  2. I think that’s a bit of a harsh judgment (to put it VERY lightly). I was all ready for a lengthy comment about how I managed to be in a very similar situation to the Taz’s without Facebook or video games, as a shy, avid reader that enjoyed food…heck, still am…but my whole groove was thrown off by that horribly insensitive comment.

    When are people going to understand that kids CAN’T grow up in a bubble? Stuff will happen in their lives and they have to cope. And having a happy mom goes a long way towards having a happy family; furthermore, insulating a child from anything that might possibly upset them sets them up for disaster and emotional breakdown once they enter the real world. I’m not, of course, advocating child labor or locking them in cupboards under stairs or any such…but life happens, and normal life events happen and they deal with them and grow and people. They learn that moms are real people too and can have (note) a healthy, stable relationship with a great guy that is half a member of the family by now. If his weight gain IS connected to stress relating to family stuff, there are ways to deal with that other than a mom giving up her life. (BTW ‘left him fatherless except for two weeks a year’? Are you serious? You would suggest that a couple stay together in a marriage that isn’t working and is making everyone miserable than do the healthy thing and let it go, and then put all the blame on WCM for something that was a decision made by both of them?)

    Ugh…I’m sorry, I know this was off-topic and inappropriate, but I felt that the appropriateness of Justin’s comment was pretty far off the mark, as well.

    Anyway, as I was originally going to say, I had no video games (my parents didn’t allow them, much to the detriment of my hand-eye coordination, though my neighbors played Mario for hours on end) but I would happily close myself in my room and kill off book after book, and my eating habits were just…a bit unhealthy. I mean, the food in our house was mostly healthy (hippie mom) but how much I ate and what I ate and when i ate were not. Add that to a genetically…um…survival-ready metabolism, and you have a chubby, unathletic kid. While my friends’ parents would lament that they wished their children read as much as I did, my mom often had to pry the book out of my hands and send me out to play. I got over it in my teens, when the importance I placed on my body image reached critical mass. I started exercising more and got into much better shape and got happier with myself. Which I have lost a bit in recent years, but heck…I’m in college, and ramen and pizza are not the best choices for a svelte figure, and neither are full days spent inside doing homework.

    Anyway, I’m not saying that ‘eating to fill emptiness’ isn’t a thing…but not everyone who overeats does so as therapy. And while, yes, letting your child know they are loved no matter what is important, expressing your concerns for their health is too. Look at Dudley Dursley…all his mom did was tell him how perfect he was, and then his parents were shocked and outraged when his school said that their blimp-esque son needed to pare down. Positive reinforcement and encouragement, and acknowledgment of the fact that he ISN’T happy with his body and that you are there to help seems like the most effective path to me.

  3. I, like Str4y, was just about to write commentary on the subject, which happens to be something I know quite a bit about, having grown up in a family of food addicts, and I have two children with unique nutritional needs, when I read Dr. Justin’s comments (If you’re making judgments like these, you’d BETTER have MD, and LCSW behind your name). I doubt Santa Rosa Mom will say it because she is so level-headed and really values her readers opinions, but you’re wrong. That’s all. You’re just plain wrong. There is no “hole” or lack of love in this family. The Taz is not overeating because his mother is dating an amazingly wonderful guy. The Taz is not “fatherless” by any means, and to imply that he is shows the readers of this forum that perhaps we should all pause before we hit that “submit comment” button. Because it wasn’t very nice. If anything, the fact that Santa Rosa Mom is coming out and addressing this issue, which is RAMPANT across the country, is indicative of her selflessness and humility. Moving on now…. the youth generations of this country have a shorter life expectancy than their parents because of the obesity epidemic in this country. Obviously, The Taz doesn’t fall into this category, but if we look at the reasons WHY our citizens are so overweight, the reasons are all that you named above: Processed food and sedentary lifestyle. We drive instead of bike. We drive-thru instead of make-from-scratch. We eat canned instead of fresh. And we watch waaaay to much television. In our house, we’ve canceled the cable, banned video games and have mandatory outside activity or sport every day. But we started when the kids were little (when I began making my own baby food). And I have, for five years now, been making meals and snacks from scratch. It was incredible challenging. It was exhausting. But the rewards are infinite. Normal weight fluctuations aside, if you are always supporting healthy eating and if you get out and exercise with your kids, that’s a giant step in the right direction.

  4. This situation requires some tough love by setting good boundaries that Taz must be required to follow. This means going outside and exercising with him for 1 hour per day regardless of the activity. Also, set a time limit on the video games. Be up front about the fact that you are starting him on a healthier diet. Limit the availability of sweets (if he wants them bad enough he must walk to the store to get them – LOL)

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