Most parents want to influence the eating behavior (i.e., habits) of their children in a positive way. I imagine that most probably think they do. Who wants to see their child unhealthy, right? But, sadly, there are startling new statistics (released in August of 2018) on childhood obesity in the United States that would suggest parents are getting it wrong. Intentions aside, this is a problem.
The prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. has climbed to 19%. It now affects nearly 14 million children and adolescents. Obesity in children ages 2 to 5 is nearing 14%. I’m not referring to kids who are above their weight, I’m talking obese children. Nearly 20% of children ages 6 to 11 are obese. As kids get older, they just keep getting more and more obese. Nearly 21% of children who are ages 12 to 19 are obese.
Now, as awful as this is, it’s also encouraging. Parents, I’m telling you, there’s actually good news in this. Why? Well, we’re talking about children and that means we can do something about it.
Here are 5 ways parents CAN make a change…
Number one: Labeling your child.
When a parent says, “Well, we’re big people,” or, “We are ___” – then, insert the name of your nationality. And, “We eat a lot,” or, “We’ve got big thighs,” or “Our family’s just known for having big bellies.”
Whatever it is, it’s like you’re giving your child YOUR beliefs about body image.
How were you labeled as a child? What labels are you passing on to your children? Remember, all of it sends a message.
Number two: Stating food as being good or bad.
Yes, parents, I know your next question, “Well then, how do I teach my child what is healthy?”
Answer: By talking about what’s healthy and what is less than healthy.
So many of us have difficult relationships with food because of the labels (and the way things were) positioned for us – at an early age – by our parents.
Like, “Oh, that’s bad. No, don’t eat that!”
If you’re a kid and you eat food labeled “bad,” doesn’t that make YOU bad?
Number three: Don’t compare.
Comparing your child’s weight to anyone else’s – their friends, siblings, TV star, etc. – is a big no no. They’re doing that all by themselves, trust me. It’s inevitable. Never tease them. Little jokes like…
- “Oh, that’s our big eater.”
- “That’s our chunky one!”
- “She’s our skinny mini!”
…will live with them forever and reinforce poor self esteem issues.
Number four: Don’t speak negatively about yourself.
Making faces and pulling at your clothing and talking about how you don’t feel good about what the scale says or how you’ve always struggled with your weight – or whatever it is you say – is directly putting those words into your child’s head. They’re going to play them on loop for the rest of their lives.
Number five: Policing your children.
As parents, it’s super hard not to criticize your kid’s behavior when you see them reaching for their fifth bowl of strawberries, for instance. That is straight sugar right there! Now, I’m not saying your kids shouldn’t have fruit. OBV. Of course they should, but at a certain point you might find yourself saying, “Okay. Do you really need that?”
I’ve personally heard from thousands and thousands of people who struggle with their weight today, and they remember some of those early comments made by well meaning parents.
- “I thought you’re trying to lose weight!”
- “Are you sure you need that?”
- “You can’t still be hungry.”
These comments hurt our kids.
This blog focused on what NOT to do, but to learn how to turn ALL of it around – plus point #6, which is freakin’ HUGE – you must check out my podcast on The Chalene Show HERE!