The number of American children who overweight or obese continues to rise. And we worry about our kids because we know that with added weight comes physical health issues like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Heavier children are also at risk for mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. As if that wasn’t enough, overweight and obese children are more likely to be the target of bullying. An article from goodtherapy.org offers some facts surrounding this unfortunate bullying reality. You can read it here.
Now comes the hard part. You wonder what you can do to help your child who struggles with weight. We already know the basics: get active, limit screen time, avoid fast foods and sugary drinks, fill up on fruits and veggies, etc.
All of these tips are important and necessary. But sometimes we forget to look at the emotional side of weight. If you have a child who is overweight there are some additional factors to consider other than just diet and exercise. Here are some emotionally-based questions to ask yourself when considering a healthy weight program for your child:
- Does child’s self esteem seem to be negatively affected by his/her physical appearance?
- Could my child be overeating due to a “hunger” for an unmet emotional need?
- Do feelings of sadness or depression account for my child’s low level of physical activity?
- Is my child well equipped with the tools necessary to stand up against potential bullying?
- What cognitive skills does my child need to learn healthier habits as he/she matures?
- How do I effectively communicate that I love and accept my child regardless of his/her weight?
It’s the chicken or the egg question all over again. Which came first: the physical or emotional issues? It really doesn’t matter; they are interwoven and both aspects need to be treated for the best outcome. You always hear “consult your physician” when starting a diet or exercise plan, right? I would also suggest consulting a mental health professional when helping your child deal with issues of weight.
One last thought: If your child is not overweight, you play an important role in this issue as well. Teach your child tolerance. Remember that a kid who’s fighting to lose weight and gain self-esteem can be easily be damaged and thrown off track by teasing or name calling.