Weight is such a sensitive issue. I know because I was fatty when I as a kid. I was ridiculed by my classmates and my family while growing up. I shunned sports and physical activities because I either could not handle it or, if forced to, was the last to be “picked” for a team. Even to this day, I still see a fat girl with crooked teeth and kinky hair when I look in the mirror and yet I barely top 100 pounds and to some, would be considered a glamourista. Go figure.
Today I would like to speak from the heart about the overweight and unfit child. Not because I want to impose society’s misguided standards on the children but because being fit – even for a kid – is crucial to survival. You see, if a disaster were to strike and supplies were limited, there may not be a lot of food to go around and there may be miles to walk in order to find shelter and safety. Being in good shape and and in good health will ease the journey and insure that our families make it to where they are going with the ability to withstand the hardships along the way.
So where do I start? Let us take a look at our children and our grandchildren and assess their physical fitness in the best way we can: go for an extended walk, hike or bicycle ride. During that time be observant. Is he or she struggling with shortness of breath? Can they keep up? Do they look winded and tired? These symptoms will be clues that that your help is needed to build up their stamina and to set them on the right track. And yes, this includes diet as well as exercise.
Here are some tips to help you work with the children in your life that may be overweight or unfit:
Be aware that it is not always easy to know if a child is overweight since it is natural for kids to put on a little extra weight at various times throughout childhood. So, please check with the child’s doctor before having a talk to your child.
Offer assurance and nurture your child’s self-esteem. Let your child know that he or she is accepted, no matter what. Most important, do not ridicule or call her fat as*s as I was called.
Focus on health and not weight. Trust me, the overweight child knows that he or she is fat and does not want to be told over and over again about the virtues of being thin. That will make him or her feel even worse and may possibly lead to sneaking food or even an eating disorder.
Fad diets (we are talking about kids here) are a no-no. This is the time to roll out healthy eating habits family-wide. Talk to your kids about making better food choices and teach them by example. Use portion control if necessary but starving them is not allowed! You should eat what they eat and in quantities that are reasonable. Remember, you are setting an example.
Do a pantry makeover and eliminate salty and sugary snacks, fatty foods, and whole milk products. Instead, stock your household with colorful veggies and luscious fruits – all cut up and ready to snack on in a moment’s notice. Gradually introduce whole grain versions of breads and pastas and substitute brown rice for white.
Find ways to become more active. Go on hikes, go skating, or ride bicycles as a family. Take your dog for an extended walk and ask your child to come along. Make this a fun time and gradually increase the length of the physical activity and the frequency. And please, make sure this is being done in the spirit of fun and not punishment.
Do not talk about your child’s weight, lack of sports ability, and poor self-image in front of him or her. There is a term that is used, “third person invisible”. As a matter of fact, do not talk about anyone’s shortcomings (child or adult) in front of them as though they are not in the same room. That is simply cruel.
Addressing the issue of weight and poor fitness is one that needs to be handled with love, encouragement and a spirit of acceptance. Doing this for the children you love may be the greatest gift that you can give them in these uncertain times.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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