I took my 11-year-old son to the doctor recently when he started complaining that his knee hurt. I thought he must have injured it, but I was shocked when the doctor said it may be his weight putting too much stress on his joints. He is overweight, but we are a family that enjoys our food. However, I know he needs to lose weight. How can I help him?
I’m not going to sugar-coat this; there’s probably been too much of that food up to now, and you really have to tackle this head-on. It may be unpalatable, but overweight or obese kids tend to become overweight or obese adults, and that is just storing up a whole heap of health issues for the future. Your son is already experiencing the consequences of carrying too much weight, so time is of the essence. You have to act now and take on the responsibility of helping him to slim down and regain his health.
You mention that you are a foodie family and I understand this. Food is often the cement that sticks things together, but I ask you this very simple question… why does that food have to be unhealthy? You can gain just as much enjoyment, and talk just as much around the table while eating delicious food made from fresh, healthy ingredients.
Whether we like it or not, parents are role models and I firmly believe that if you cook and eat healthy food yourselves, your children will by default do the same. You are responsible for his diet, so take charge and cut out the junk that is making him fat.
This might mean you have to re-educate your son’s taste buds. High-fat, high-sugar, processed foods are designed to make you crave them more, because they trigger those taste receptors in your brain.
As you say, you are a family that eats together; that would suggest to me that you are close and discuss things openly. This is a great starting point. By acknowledging the problem together, you can work together to change it.
It’s important that you also discuss the issue with your son and explain that he needs to slim down and become healthier so that he can make the most of his future. When you do these things from love and in a positive way they are far more likely to be understood and followed.
And start small. Changing everything in one go is far too overwhelming, so begin by making some healthy swaps. First, keep a family food diary, then use it to see where you can make healthy changes. The key is to try to eat as much freshly cooked food that hasn’t been processed, with vegetables making up half of your plate.
Cut down on sugar and check your portion size. Most people who struggle with their weight tend to dish up far more than they need.
Get your son involved, even get him cooking – and exercising – so he takes ownership of the process.
Turn it into a fun challenge with rewards attached to it and this will motivate him.
Change is never easy, but it is possible, especially when it’s about the health of your own child, so just remember you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.