Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition

Our previous article about the psychological effects of obesity in children highlighted the devastating effect these children’s weight can have on their social and emotional development.  In this article we are going to look at some of the ways in which parents can help undo some of the damage caused by obesity.

1. Help your child loose weight.   There is simply no way around this issue – the only way in which to bring about permanent positive change to the psychological well-being of obese children is to focus on the cause of the problem: their weight.  I have never been a great supporter of strict diets or calorie counting and find that this can be even harder for children, but start by promoting positive food choices and activity levels.  Stock up on healthy alternatives the next time you go shopping, deposit tuck shop and pocket money in a savings account instead and compile a list fun activities to do together as a family with the savings.  Consider enlisting the help of a dietician, personal trainer or child kinetisist if you worry that you won’t be able to encourage your child on your own.

2. Switch off the TV.  Extended periods of Television viewing can lead to obesity in three ways.  Firstly, it reduces the time available to children to take part in other activities such as playing outside, etc.  It features countless adverts by food companies specifically targeting young children (Sweden has strictly banned all adverts targeting children under the age of 12 years for this very reason).  And lastly, it is an inactive pursuit which requires almost no energy expenditure.

3. Let your children know that you love and support them.  Encourage and praise them in their efforts to loose weight and promote a healthy self-esteem by focusing on all their strengths.

4. Teach them to love their body for what it can do, not for what it looks like.  In a world of air brushing, photo shop and impossibly thin fashion models children are at risk of constantly feeling inadequate.  Rather focus on fitness and ability than looks.

5. Be a role model.  We cannot separate weight from the family and societal influences in a child’s life.  Adopt healthier eating habits yourself and get the community involved in creating safer, and more suitable activities and play areas for children.  One study of obese children found impressive results in a community where the local school started organising “walking bus” routes to school.