Recently I saw an article online about whether or not parents should lose weight with their kids. Quick disclaimer: I don’t have kids yet but I think I can weigh in on this topic because of my own childhood and upbringing.
I think this is treading dangerous ground to be honest. My hope is that someday my kids grow up with a healthy body image. As a kid I did not have a healthy body image. At age 9 I thought I was “fat.” Sure that was mostly because of kids at school, which you can’t avoid. But looking back at photos, I was never fat until I was 17 years old and I started to gain weight.
Losing weight was somehow always on my brain, though. As a normal pre-teen I thought about dieting and losing weight. Why? Why was I so consumed?
I think kids are impressionable and they see what their parents do and they see what their friends/classmates do. My best friend in middle school, Kristy, was anorexic. I didn’t really understand what that meant as a 12 year old. She was one grade ahead of me. Her mom was always on a diet. So was Kristy. Kristy would bake these amazing desserts but she never ever ate any of them. I found that strange as a kid but I didn’t understand until later when my mom explained to me that Kristy was anorexic. Every winter she would be hospitalized with frostbite because she was so skinny. Yet she was always trying to lose more weight.
My mom was never really “on a diet.” But she was way into diet food. The fat-free fad, the low-fat, cardboard food that was sugar-free, salt-free, flavor-free was a staple in our house in my teens. My tactic for dealing with this? Bingeing at friend’s houses on “real” food (i.e. junk food). My mom made healthy after school snacks for my brother and I but of course as a kid, you want the pop-tart not the apple…
This is my background. This is my history as a kid with weight loss and gain. As someone who has tackled obesity and has maintained my 100+ pound loss for 3 years I see obesity everywhere. The kids I see are plus-sized. They have muffin tops, thick arms, and fat stomachs that are leading to diabetes (I know, I was there once). It makes me sad to see this epidemic spreading.
So I see this rampant epidemic as a horrifying thing BUT I am also weary of giving a whole generation of children eating disorders either. Is there a healthy balance? Is there a way to teach our kids to make healthy choices without shoving it down their throat and giving them a complex?
Causes of Childhood Obesity:
- Lack of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle
- Eating more calories than he or she expends
- Too much fat and sugar in the diet
- Family genetics
When I was a kid I was forced to do sports and I HATED it. I hated team sports (still do) and it was a miserable thing for me. My family also went hiking and backpacking a lot. I grew to hate it because it wasn’t fun. It was a chore. My dad, the Marine Drill Sergeant barking orders as we marched through a forest, was not making it something fun. I stopped hiking for a long time. Now? I love it again!
My tactic for my future children is to SHOW them that exercise is fun. That eating healthy can be good and taste good. IF they want to do sports, they can. If they are like me and team sports is not what they are interested in, there are tons of alternatives for solo sports. Swimming is a good one. 🙂
- Michael and I have talked at length about how we want to raise our future kids in terms of sports. Michael wants them to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At first I was hesitant. But with more thought I think martial arts are a good way for kids to learn strength, confidence, respect and will power. If we have a girl? That’s ok. She needs to know how to defend herself too.
- I want to teach my kids that food is fuel for the body. It’s necessary and important and it makes a huge difference WHAT fuel you put into your body. This does not mean denying ourselves of all treats.
- The Kinect video games are so much fun and a surprising workout! These types of new technologies would appeal to kids.
- Exercising together is a good way to show them exercise can be fun. Running together, sprinting, hiking, going for bike rides, doing a kid’s 5k together, swimming, play frisbee in the park…the list is endless.
- Sneak in fitness. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and make a game out of it, make it a race. Park the car far away from the store and walk. Bike or walk to school every morning.
- Don’t reward good behavior with treats. As a kid if I was “good” I got ice cream for dessert. I loved ice cream. 🙂
It seems like the list can be endless for fun ways to teach kids about exercise and food. I think the bottom line is to somehow help overweight kids lose weight without putting so much focus dieting and what the scale says.
QUESTION: If you are a parent, how do you feel about articles that suggest parents and kids lose weight together? What tactics do you use?