Thursday, May 28, 2015

Help My Kid is Overweight! 9 Tools to Help a Child Achieve a HealthyWeight

How to Build a Kid's Healthy Weight Toolbox

When working with children to achieve a healthy weight it is important to use a "toolbox approach" instead of a narrow linear one. A toolbox approach is to gather tools and ideas that you can collect, sharpen and polish and use in different stages and times in life. Our children will grow into adults and will soon learn that life is full of twists and turns. The more tools they have to achieve and maintain a healthy weight the better equipped they will be to succeed through life's challenges.

A tool is an attitude, habit, environmental feature or action that can help us achieve our goals. If you find that one tool works better than others temporarily it is okay to focus on using that tool to the fullest while trying to continually build other tools in order to solidify behaviors. You may discover that one tool is more effective than others and makes all the difference. Most likely, however, you will need and use several tools to help your child obtain and maintain a healthy weight. No matter your child's age it is wise to focus on building an entire tool box which will help provide a scaffolding to hold your child's positive behaviors in place. 

9 healthy weight tools are listed below.

  • Build habits
  • Create A NET
  • Fail often
  • Blend favorites
  • Love your child
  • Get help
  • Create a plan
  • Gather positive role models
  • Help yourself

Build Habits- "Change your habits to change you" or "Change your child's habits to change them." There is a quote that we use on the site that says "It's not food that makes us overweight its our habits. Identify the habits that are affecting the child's health. Look at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. What are the barriers that you or they face for better habits? Address these barriers head on. Start small. Work on one habit at a time and add on each week. We will discuss more about this below in create a plan.

Create "A Net"- For more information on this read another blog post titled A.N.E.T. of success. A net is something that catches us when our guard is down. The more safety NETS that we have the more likely we are to succeed when we get thrown life's curve balls.

Fail Often- One thing that my husband tells my children more than anything else is "fail often". Very few great things come without great failure first. When you stop failing is when you stop trying. Do not think "I've tried this a thousand times and I failed, I will not try again." The person that keeps failing is the person who will succeed. The only true failure is to not try at all. Try actions several times in several different ways. Do not give up.

Blend Favorites- Find something that your child loves and attach a positive healthy habit to it. One example is that if your child likes to play video games. You can use this to your and her advantage by finding active games that your child likes. Take an inventory of your kids schedule, habits and favorites and diligently try to attach a healthy habit onto these. Don't try once and give up, remember- FAIL OFTEN.

Love Your Child- One of the hardest things about having an overweight child is the judgement that you feel others may pass upon you. You may find that you are defending yourself before strangers, doctors and family members. Take a step back and remember that they don't matter. What they think of you in 10 years won't matter but what your child feels that you think of him or her will always matter. It can be difficult but resist the temptation to defend yourself to others. Love your child and make them first in your mind. In one study one of the greatest factors that made a difference in the child's self perception and self efficacy was what they over heard their parents saying about them. If you defend yourself or blame yourself out loud to others about your child's weight then your child can absorb these thoughts. If it absolutely needs to be addressed with the child then talk positively about this challenge and how you both have the power and choice to overcome it. Overtime those verbal cues will change your child's perceptions about the situation. Positive thinking is only one ingredient to changing your situation but it is a vital ingredient.

Get Help- Reach out to the right sources to get help. Do a thorough investigation of discovering who can help you in this situation. Some of these sources will cost money, some will be programs that are available and state-funded but they are all around us. There are counselors, nutritionists, coaches, doctors. endocrinologists and the list goes on and on. They can be found through schools, hospitals, the health department and private businesses. Never look to these people as a "save all" but look to them as a tool in your tool box. Working together with them will be the best way to help your child. These people will enter and exit their life but you will stay so absorb as much knowledge from them that you can.

Create a Plan- Create a plan by using the four steps below:

-Know your goal

-Specify the areas of change
-Plan actions to improve the areas of change
-Start small with the actions and add on

  1. Know your goal- Do you have a plan to help your child obtain a healthy weight? Most parents don't. The first step to a plan is knowing where your child should be. Most children do not need to lose weight they just need to maintain their current weight as they grow. If a child is having health issues related to their weight than they may need to lose weight. This will be best determined by counseling with your health provider. Find out where your child's weight should be for their age and height and set a mental goal. Use good judgement about whether or not to share this goal with your child and again counsel with your health care provider.
  2. Specify the areas of change- After you know where you should be take a good amount of time in a quiet place to examine where some of the problem areas are. Examine meals, activities, habits, family traditions and all circumstances. Write down your hot spots. Do nothing at this point but brain storm and list them.
  3. Plan actions to improve the areas of change- Once you have determined your child's goal weight and have identified your areas of change then you can begin to make a plan. Determine the actions that you can take to eliminate or lesson some of the areas in your environment that are contributing to the problem. Expect to go through several version of the plan, it will be a journey. Try to stay away from extremes and eliminating entire food groups out of your child's diet or people that advocate this approach. Seek a long term solution that may limit but not eliminate certain foods. Include in your plan ways to navigate your family traditions or social situations that revolve around unhealthy food. If grandma's house is a free-for-all seek ways to improve that. If holidays are a time to get sick on chocolate and sugar plan ways in which you enjoy activities with each other and without so much indulgence. Once you have listed them put them in "low hanging fruit" order. A low hanging fruit is that which is closest to your reach. Order them according to those things that you feel are most easily changed first.
  4. Start with one plan of action at a time-Start with low hanging fruit first. Focus on implementing one to two actions at a time and add to it as you begin to feel comfortable. Be consistent and patient it is worth the effort. We don't want to set ourselves up for something that will end quickly we want changes that will stay and continue to benefit the lives of our children. Consistent diligent and slow change is much better than a Herculean effort.

Gather Role Models- Find examples of people who lead a healthy lifestyle and surround yourself and your child with them. These include mentors, coaches, family friends, church leaders and local fitness professionals. Avoid the temptation to run from these people because you may feel judged. Accept that they do not know your circumstances but give them a chance to love you and your child. Find rock climbers, runners, dancers, skaters, hikers and talk to them in front of your child about their lifestyle. You may not engage in all of these activities yourself so this gives your child a chance to sample the benefits of these lifestyles and still see them firsthand in others.

Help yourself- Apply the entire list above but to you as well as your child. Possibly the most powerful way to change your child's future is to change yours. It is called the trickle effect. If you focus on your fitness and healthy eating these attitudes behaviors and actions whether intentional or unintentional will have an impact on your child. Many parents feel it is selfish if they focus on their own health. This is not so. It is okay to focus on yourself and it is a very unselfish action when you have a family to take care of. You would not send your child on a cross country trip in a broken down vehicle. You would most likely have the tires and oil changed and make sure it is in good running condition. If the car breaks down on their trip they will enjoy their time less and it may even put them in danger. You are the vehicle of your child's childhood. They will feel more safe, secure and confident if you are healthy and strong. Focus on yourself physically and mentally and your influence will likely change their lives for the better in many ways.

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