As one of my old college professor’s would say: “It’s a sticky wicket.”
More and more kids are becoming overweight and obese. This has an enormous impact for both short and long term health. It’s something we need to be discussing.
But we have to be careful, too. We can’t set our kids up for poor body image and self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and thinking that all success lies in how much they weigh or how they look. They’ll have plenty of other things to talk with their therapists about when they reach adulthood.
So how do you talk about a sensitive subject like this without hurting feelings and creating major food issues for your kid?
Let’s be honest here: chances are, if your child is overweight and/or obese, you probably are, too. That’s okay! Not a judgement. Just statistically true. The good thing here is that you probably struggle with the same above issues and you can benefit from a newer, healthier approach, just as much as your family can.
The goal is to arrive at and maintain a healthy body weight, while retaining (or creating) a healthy sense of self esteem. Chances are, what you’ve been doing all along hasn’t worked. So maybe it’s time to do things differently.
Let Go Of The Willpower Myth
Numerous studies have shown that eating food, particularly foods high in sugar and fat, activate the same response in the brain that heroin does. We have some feel good hormones that are emitted when we fill certain receptors on our brain cells. This is why addiction is so difficult to kick–because it makes us feel good. Knowing that is important, because it takes away the willpower myth. Humans have a strong will to feel happy. Sometimes we learn very effective, but unhealthy ways of achieving happiness. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Just that you need to learn other more healthy behaviors when dealing with negative feelings.
Stop the Hateful Inner Monologue Ticker Tape
It may not be out loud. You may not even recognize that you do it. But you do.
“I’m so fat. Why can’t I lose weight? I was bad yesterday. Nothing looks good on me. I don’t want to run into anyone. I need to lose weight before _____________ (fill in the blank). If I was thin, I would….”
Sound familiar? The percentage of time that you are even aware of the horrible things you say to yourself is just a fraction compared to the constant battery you actually subject yourself to. Stop. You would never speak to a friend or a child this way, nor do you even think these things of other people. Learn to re-frame how you think about yourself and talk to your kids about it. They’ve picked up more from you than you think.
The Detrimental Good Food/Bad Food Pendulum
The pendulum swings to the right–good. You crash and the pendulum swings to the left–bad. What would happen if the pendulum stayed right in the middle? No more foods you should and foods you shouldn’t. Living a healthy life doesn’t mean saying good-bye to food as you know it. Creating good and bad food categories sets you up for failure. This is one of the hardest habits to let go of, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. Practice as a family to eliminate those all or nothing statements. They are the opposite of helpful.
Focus On Adding, Not Taking Away
Do you know how many servings of fruit and vegetables you eat in a day? Do you even know what a true fruit or vegetable serving size is? What if you focused for three months on simply meeting those requirements. Forget about what you “shouldn’t” be eating. Think instead about what you could be adding.
Help Your Child Keep a Feelings Journal
Most of us are uncomfortable with negative feelings: sadness, anger, anxiety. We mask those feelings with whatever is most easily accessible so that we don’t have to suffer. But it’s important to teach our kids that allowing ourselves to feel the feelings isn’t nearly as painful as avoiding them.
Pay Attention To Portion
Don’t change any of what you normally buy! You’re not a new person today. You’re you. Throwing out everything in your house and re-stocking your cabinets with health food is temporary if you don’t learn how to be mindful of how much you’re eating. How many crackers does the box say you should have? What does 2 tablespoons of peanut butter look like? Spend a couple of weeks with no other goal but measuring what you eat. You will develop an awareness you never had before. You might have occasional moments of realizing that one serving filled you up. And then you will know you are starting to recognize hunger and fullness. Or you will notice that you decided to have 4 servings, instead. But at least you noticed.
Allow True Enjoyment of Food
Read my article on Cooking At Home. Spending time preparing your own food allows you to learn how to celebrate food in a healthy, holistic way. It’s okay to admit you like to eat! It’s a satisfying and enjoyable part of life. We just need to think about what it means to truly enjoy food. Cooking at home can help you change that for good.