Childhood obesity is making the papers. The numbers are up. Is it any wonder?
By: Nan Andrews Amish
Phys ed classes are not funded in many public schools, they are ineffective in many others. Fat is the last legal bias. Kids make fun of anyone different, and the fat kid is fair game. Heaven help the fat kid in a shorts, where the fat can hang out for all to see. Bullies will take aim and not let up.
Kids spend hours in front of computers, and their neighborhoods are unsafe.
Here are some strategies for growing strong, healthy, mentally and emotionally stable kids.
1. Acknowledge that you know that it hurts when kids make fun of them because of how they look. Help them build emotional intelligence by acknowledging how they do feel, and help them build empathy for others who are different and also made fun of.
2. Acknowledge that you know that there are kids who eat worse than they do, and who do not have the struggle they have with weight. The message is that you appreciate it may not be fair and that getting healthy is not easy, and it is not necessarily their fault, but that they still are responsible for doing what they can to manage it. Watching a skinny minny eat cookies and milk shakes and sandwiches and french fries and never gain a pound is discouraging as you eat your lettuce, carrots and lean chicken or tuna.
Food and Diet
3. If the kid is eating a lot of junk food, see if you can modify these habits. Junk food stacks the deck against kids, because the processed white sugar, the processed white flour and the food additives are DESIGNED to be addictive and DESIGNED to increase appetite. Deprivation is not the key, but choosing treat foods wisely helps. Give them messages like their body is their temple, they need to treat it well. Offer metaphors like would they put lard in a sports car. No, they would put the best fuel in it they could afford. Bodies are like that.
4. Invite overweight kids to shop with you, and teach them to read labels. Have them become the experts, so they have the tools to choose wisely and or splurge, but understand the meaning of the splurge.
5. Invite (as opposed to force or punish) overweight kids to try various foods that might help them eat less junk. For example, fresh fruits. A burrito with filling protein like beans, as opposed to totally empty calories. Nuts as opposed to chips. Baby carrots, even.
6. For most overweight kids the best way to assist them is to crank up their metabolism. Exercise is the best way to do this. Fit kids get bullied less. Fit, strong kids rarely get bullied. Fit, self confident, strong kids with an exceptional physical skill never get bullied. If the kid has rhythm, get them into dance, t'ai chi, akido. If they have two left feet, have them try kick boxing or wrestling. If they like team stuff, soccer is great and there are teams available for all skills and all genders. If they are particularly "round" and have lots of soft baby fat, try swimming, they will float better than any of their thinner buddies. Weight lifting for boys can be a win.
7. Martial arts is always a win. It builds discipline, muscle, aerobic capacity and confidence. Choose according the child's capabilities, or try what their friends or geographic locality has available. Kids who know martial arts know how to breath, they know how to focus, they have strength both internal and external. They do not get bullied.
8. Health is the best revenge. So use every opportunity to be active with your child. Walk to the video store. Walk with them to talk about what is up at school. Put music on and dance. Have exercise options in the house, like rebounders, trampolines, swings for the younger ones, jungle gyms, etc.
9. If your child is significantly heavy, consider summer camps designed to do all of the above with lots of other kids struggling with the same. Not all camps are the same, so check them out. But an 8 year old who spend 4 weeks being healthy and active during the summer, loses as little as 10 pounds, grows 2 inches has a great way to start back to school in the fall. They are stronger, leaner, more confident, tan and met tons of new friends.
10. If your child is significantly heavy, consider working with a naturopath, homeopath or holistic nutrition person. Why holistic? Often, children who struggle more than a few pounds, have other things going on, that if they are not addressed, will make this an uphill battle. They may be deficient in a nutrient. Vitamin C is a common deficiency with kids who crave sugar for example, potassium is often lacking in kids who like salt. Kids who have had lots of antibiotics may not have good intestinal flora and need acidophilous, bifidus. Kids who seem to be eating all the time and are always hungry, may have something more severe going on. Sugar addictions, wheat allergies, pre-diabetes, or even a parasite.
11. If you have an overweight child and have other children who are not in the same space, having a family meeting where the entire family decides how they will help each other address EACH of family members issues helps. Calling out the fat child's issues is humiliating, but if the family helps one child with spelling mastery and another child with food, it all evens out and engenders family (team) spirit. If the family decides that to help the child struggling with food that there will be no Oreos in the house, the support is strong.
Give them an edge
12. Go for the organic. Skip the Costco and Wallmart specials. Kids who are overweight are sensitive to stuff other kids are not. Organic foods will have less additives, less hormones (designed to help cattle and chicken GAIN weight), less genetically modified foods to be allergic too, less chemicals to create immune responses to. Organic produce tastes better too, and it might be less of struggle to get a child to snack on cherry tomatoes that melt in your mouth than on tomatoes that taste like cardboard.
13. Grow other kid strengths. If they are great at spelling, encourage them to compete in the spelling bee. If they are musically inclined, find them places to sing, play. If computers or video games are their thing, help them get very good at these skills, so they will have confidence from these other perspectives.
14. Be empathetic about their looks. Appreciate that a plea from an overweight child to "blend in" or "fit in" is more charged than a plea from a child who is more mainstream looking. Help them choose clothes that are flattering and really fit them well. Make sure that they have clothes they can move in which are not uncomfortable. (I knew one teen who hated to walk until she got some shorts and slacks that did not chafe, for example. Then she walked everywhere, because the pants were not rubbing a hole in her thigh!) Make sure they find clothes which are age appropriate, and have enough style that they are not the butt of more bullying because of their clothes. This will cost more than you would prefer, since most larger sizes cost extra, and alterations are always on top. Know a good place to get stuff altered too, so if you have to buy a larger size to accommodate a larger tummy the rest of the garment is not so big there is room for Aunt Matilda in there too. Here is where you can REALLY help your child fit it. By buying slightly better quality, fabrics that do not show fat bulges for example, or a garment that is made really well and hangs great, will make your child look smaller than they are. Good undergarments count too, especially for girls. Find a way to make them feel special with accessories for example, or shoes.
15. Back to basics, they are not alone. Let them know, that they are beautiful inside. Appreciate all the unique and special things that they are. Give messages of beauty often. Compliment best features, extra efforts, exercise and food victories. Take them to movies like Shrek, Harry Potter and others where there are heroes who are not all stick thin. Show them art depicting ancient cultures when thin was not so in. (Botticelli, Rubens, african tribes for example). Give them unconditional love and acceptance regardless of their success or failure in any of these areas.
16. Be spiritual.