Overweight Child with mother

It is difficult enough to lose your own weight, but when your child is overweight, trying to get them to lose those extra pounds can be a real challenge. With all the school snacks, parties, playdates and tendencies to eat what their friends are eating, you cannot possibly control every morsel that goes into their mouths. But what if there were some proven strategies that can make this goal a whole lot easier and a lot less frustrating? Here are five methods you can use to help your child lose weight:

Face reality about your child’s weight

Before you can help your child lose weight, you need to come to terms that your child has a weight problem. Claiming it is “baby” fat or just a phase is not going to do your child any good. The sooner you accept the fact that your child is overweight, the sooner you can do something about it.

Researchers from the University Medical Centre Groningen in The Netherlands, asked 800 parents to evaluate their child’s weight and body type (normal, overweight, obese). The results showed that 75% of mothers and 77% of fathers thought that their overweight children were a normal weight. Half of the mothers and 39% of fathers thought their obese four- or five-year olds were normal weight as well. Even worse was the fact that the parents of overweight and obese kids did not think their kids were less active than other children.

overweight girl

Because overweight children are highly likely to remain overweight in their teenage and adult years, it is of the utmost importance that parents recognize when their child has a weight problem so that it can be dealt with immediately. The study concludes that many parents’ idea of what constitutes overweight has changed as more and more people are overweight thus being overweight is becoming more of the norm and less of something that is frowned upon.

Lose your own weight

You know the saying—follow my lead? Well, if you are overweight yourself, how do you expect your kids to not be overweight as well? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota conducted a study and concluded that if parents lose weight, their child will have a lot more success in losing weight, too.

They compared three different methods parents can use for helping their kids lose weight: (1) changing their behavior as parents in order to lose their own excess weight, (2) changing the food in their home, (3) encouraging their child to eat healthier and be more physically active.

Out of all three of these different styles, when the parent changed their own behavior and lost weight themselves, this had the most influence over their children’s weight loss success. The best thing to do if you are overweight and your child is overweight is to begin lose weight yourself first. This will lay down the foundation for your child’s future success at losing weight. If you find this difficult, ask help from a dietitian, do some research online for best diet plans for keeping weight off in 2012; just take action.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

You may be surprised to learn that aside from having a cranky child from not sleeping enough, you may also have an overweight child. Researchers in New Zealand have shown a direct relationship between a lack of adequate sleep and an increase in weight in children.

The study involved 244 children whose statistics regarding height, weight, body mass index and body composition were measured at six-month intervals from age three through age seven. Their activity level and sleep habits were also taken into account as well as their diet. What they found was that each extra hour of sleep a night from ages three to five years was associated with a body mass index reduction of 0.49 and a 61% reduction in their risk of becoming overweight or obese by age seven. While researchers are not clear why this correlation exists, they surmise that a lack of adequate sleep increases the amount of food eaten and can also lead to kids being too tired to engage in any physical exercise to help keep the weight off.

It is important that kids, especially those beginning at age three, get the proper amount of sleep each night. If you are unsure what that should be, you can always consult with your pediatrician.

Turn off the television.

Who knew that it was not just the programs on television that could be harmful to your kids, but also the advertisements? Dr. Auden C. McClure, an assistant professor in the pediatric department at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, has reported that there is a correlation between kids who are consistently exposed to fast-food restaurant ads on television and obesity.

More than three thousand kids ages fifteen to twenty three years of age were surveyed about their television viewing habits including how many hours they watched and if they snacked while watching television as well as how often they ate at fast-food restaurants. Information like height, weight, age, gender, race, consumption of soda and sweetened drinks, and exercise were also asked.

The kids were shown images of television ads from popular fast-food restaurants (minus the brand name) and were asked if they were familiar with them, if they liked the ad and who the ad was for. Seventeen percent of the youths who recognized more of the ads were obese as compared with 8.3% of those who recognized fewer ads. One interesting finding was that the frequency of eating at fast-food restaurants did not correlate with obesity. What did, however, correlate was that kids who are very familiar with these ads may have eating patterns that are influenced by what they see on television which includes eating while watching.

The researchers admit more studies need to be done as to how the familiarity between fast food ads and obesity is linked, but for now, if you are trying to help your child lose weight, limit their time spent in front of the television watching shows that are known for their excessive amount of fast-food ads.

Enjoy eating dinner as a family.

One of the lost arts of family life these days is the whole family sitting down together at the dinner table. But research is showing that this tradition is something that families should start doing again. University of Minnesota researchers surveyed more than 1500 students one time during high school and then when they were twenty years of age. They were asked about the frequency of sitting down to a meal with family and friends, whether or not they ate on the run and how often they ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. What they found was that when adolescents ate family meals together, they ate more fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, and less soda as adults.

The long-term result of eating family meals during adolescence is better overall diets as these kids reach adulthood. So the next time your kids want to rush out the door as they scarf down a burger or if you are too busy to find the time to sit down and eat as a family, think about the effects that will have later in life on your kids and consider doing something about it. It only takes an hour (at the most) of your day and is a great way to not only make sure your kids eat healthy both now and later in life, but it is also a great way to stay in touch with them and find out what is going on in their lives.

Jayson is a biologist with an interest in kids health and weight issues. In his blog he offers a review and a coupon for Nutrisystem.  Jayson encourages moms to follow the above recommendations as none of them is difficult, crazy or out-of-the-box. These are simple solutions to a problem that can sometimes be overwhelming to parents. But by setting the stage now for healthy eating habits and showing your kids that you too are committed to healthy eating yourself, the role of helping your kids lose weight will be a lot easier and, most importantly, successful.