Back in Episode 2, I mentioned the number one most important thing that you can do to help your kids slim down. I thought I would go all the way by sharing my top 10 rules you can use to help your kids lose weight and be slim and fit.
As with adults, my primary principle in treating overweight for children is to follow the body’s natural wisdom of when to eat and when to stop. Babies know this innately (ever try to get a baby to eat when not hungry?). Here’s where you start:
1. Set an example.
Many clients have asked me what to do to help their kids. My first response is always to set a positive example. If you have food issues, there is a good chance your kids will too, even if you think you are hiding them.
I had a client who had developed Bulimia in her 40s. Her behavior was a big secret, and I was the first person in the world she told about it. As she healed from this disorder, her brother was hospitalized for complications related to guess what? Bulimia. She then learned her mother had been Bulimic, and an aunt too. It seems the family secret was actually the family inheritance (this client has been binge free for a couple of years now, so it is possible to break a family pattern!).
2. Get the crap out of their diets.
Obesity rates in the US have climbed in lock step with the increase in consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS actually disrupts the body’s ability to tell if it’s hungry or full because it does not trigger an insulin response like regular sugar does.
HFCS is in just about everything it seems, so it takes some work to identify better options, but once you and your kids get used to it, it’s surprisingly easy.
Another villian in the food supply is hydrogentated oils. These are usually listed as “Partially Hydrogenated Oil”. Originally developed as an industrial solvent, hydrogenated oil tends to go into your arteries and not come out. Do your kids a favor and get it out of their diet.
Here’s a short cut in choosing healthy foods. Read the ingredient list. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
One more thing. Fruit juice has virtually no redeeming qualities. It’s metabolized as sugar and has a very low nutritive value. Water is the best drink and, for many, milk is a great choice too.
3. Turn off the TV, and the computer for that matter.
Not only will your kids be more active, but their creative brain cells will hop into action. Need more convincing? Watching television induces a hypnotic trance, typically a state of heightened suggestibility. Do you really want your kids highly suggestible to what they see on TV? Do you really want them to associate a vegetative state with the comforts of home?
Again, the transition can be tough, but the new habits will be worth it.
4. Don’t use food as a reward or a bribe.
Find something else. Obvious, right?
5. Let them bounce off the walls.
If you give kids sugar, they will suddenly have lots of energy (the post birthday party syndrome). Kids respond beautifully to sugar’s concentrated energy by running around and burning it off. If you want some peace and quiet, give them string cheese, not sweets or juice.
6. Sit down to a meal with your kids at least 3 nights a week, and more if possible.
Family meal time has been shown to have a negative correlation with obesity, and a positive correlation with happiness and good performance in school.
What’s at work here? Positive associations. Family meal time is where connection happens. Kids like connection, and they learn to associate it with a balanced meal. This association can last a life time.
Also, teach the kids to eat what you eat at meal time (assuming it’s healthy!). Most kid foods are a nutritionally anemic. Expect a child to see a new food an average of 12 times before he will try it. This means that you need to keep offering the veggies and brown rice and eventually they will catch on, especially if they see you enjoying it, and have no other options. Besides, you will have more time to spend with your kids if you are preparing one meal instead of two.
7. Take your kids out to ice cream.
I gottcha on this one, didn’t I? A total ban can backfire. Alcoholism rates in countries such as Italy where alcohol is a part of the culture from an early age are very low. The same principle applies to sweets. You want your kids to learn eat sweets in moderation, and to enjoy a childhood ritual.
Notice however that I am suggesting you take them out to ice cream, not keep it in the house for a nightly “treat”. If a daily dessert is important, offer fresh fruit after a healthy meal.
8. Encourage kids to listen to their own bodies.
Once the crap is out of their diets, and their TV addiction has subsided, they can begin to tune in to their body’s signs of hunger and fullness. They will have a much easier time of doing this as kids then they will as adults (I know, I spend lots of time teaching this ability to adults) , so save them years of struggle by teaching them these good habits now.
9. Encourage physical activity.
Find a sport they enjoy, go on hikes together, turn on some music and dance in the living room, take the stairs instead of the elevator saying “great, an opportunity for exercise!”. Tell them that it’s good to feel tired because it means they are getting stronger.
Whatever it takes, get them moving. They will thank you for it.
10. Love them unconditionally.
Tell them they are beautiful from the inside out, just as they are, fat thin or in between. Tell them that you love them no matter what they say or do, because you love their being, and watch them thrive! (I think this one is obvious too).