If you have an overweight or obese child, you’re not alone. With the obesity epidemic only just now beginning to stabilize, many families are dealing with this poignant and important issue. However, it can be hard to talk about this particular issue with your daughter because of the high premium placed on female looks in our culture. When you’re trying to talk to your daughter about heart conditions and diabetes, she’s far more likely to be thinking about boys and dates. How can you have a health-focused discussion without looks being brought into it?
Studies have shown that focusing any weight loss related topic strictly on the numbers on a scale promotes eating disorders. In teens and preteens, the number of eating disorders is constantly on the rise, and you don’t want to turn your daughter’s minor or moderate weight problem into a disorder that will wreck her self-esteem, mind, and body for years to come. With all that pressure, it can be easy to think that you don’t need to have the discussion, but that’s not true either. The trick is to make your discussion about overall health and not just about her weight.
When you want to talk to her; do it by informing her that you, as a family, have decided to make healthier choices from now on. Explain nutrition and portion control if you feel the need to, and include the weekly exercise requirements, or the daily ones. However, in addition to these common weight loss topics, talk about how much Vitamin C she needs to eat every day so she doesn’t get sick. Talk about thoroughly washing your hands regularly and brushing your teeth after every meal. If you make it an overall health campaign, you will get better results. That’s the entire point, isn’t it?
Now that you have started a fitness and health campaign in your house, let her step up the plate. Ask her to find a sport or activity; league costs can be somewhat pricey, but most offer payment options if needed. If it’s a sport of her own choosing, she’ll be more likely to go, and getting the activity she needs (as well as meeting other active friends) will do her a world of good.
Start her on the path of healthy choices by letting her plan and cook healthy meals. Researching online and finding recipes she wants to try that meet specific requirements (say, she has to make a vegetarian dinner one week, and a breakfast of fewer than 500 calories the next) gives her a sense of control in all of this. This also increases the odds that she won’t resent these changes and will actually be cooperative – or even enthusiastic!
The biggest thing to remember is to never bring her looks into this. Make it about weight as little as possible; if she starts eating lower calorie meals and exercising more, she will lose weight without it ever having to be a central issue.