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Talking to Your Kids About Their Weight
Haylen_WebMD_Staff posted:
According to a new survey from WebMD and Sanford Health, parents and kids have a hard time talking about the child's weight issues . In fact, the study indicated they would rather have the 'sex talk' than bring up any topic that might refer to the child being overweight.

But if your little one has unhealthy habits and needs to slim down, it's a conversation you need to have. Even if your child does not have a weight problem, you should be initiating conversations about healthy weight, nutrition and fitness. Kids need to be armed with the facts.

Let's discuss great ways to talk about healthy weight -- not looks or dieting -- with your kids, whether they need to drop a few pounds or not.

How do you think it's best to broach the topic with your own kids? Have you been avoiding this discussion in your family? Why?

Check out this great information on how to talk to your children about healthy habits every day !

Chris Tiongson, MD responded:
The findings surprised me, but I guess they shouldn't have.

Parents have had way more practice having the birds and the bees talk. It is a rite of passage for both the parents and the kids. In the office, I will just break the ice by asking the 11 yr old if he or she has had the "sex talk" with mom and dad yet. I either get the knowing nod from kid and parent, or the nervous "no" and then mom says "I guess we should, huh?"

Talking about sex should be inherently more anxiety provoking, but it isn't. Why is that?

I think it stems from the fact that there is a cultural narrative, even a mythology, about the sex talk. Movies and TV have etched it into our culture. And we've all been through it ourselves as kids. I'm sure we all remember when our mom or dad sat us down. I do. Vividly. My dad is a physician and "the talk" came complete with medical school level anatomic sketches on a napkin. When my mom walked by the kitchen table, she glanced down at the sketches, said "hmm" knowingly and marched on.

There is no such blueprint culturally or from personal experience for many parents to fall back on for the weight talk. Even though the sex talk will be clumsy, that's ok because both the kid and parent know it is coming (sometime) and they both expect it to be just a bit awkward.

So what can parents do to start the conversation about weight?

Have your pediatrician broach the subject during a well child visit. Just like how I bluntly ask about if you've had the sex talk yet, your pediatrician can say "have you talked with your mom or dad about healthy eating and staying active to improve your health?"

Or initiate the conversation in the doctor's office yourself. After looking at the growth chart with your doctor, ask "Is there something we can do as a family to improve our nurtrition and physical activity?" Try to keep the focus on preventing health complications, not on appearance. With the focus on the family as a whole this can help keep the child from feeling singled out under a spotlight of criticism.

Start the conversation at home, similarly to above, keeping the focus on how the whole family can work to improve healthy eating and activity. Ask the child what he or she thinks might be a good first step.

Bottom line: plan it out, keep the focus on the family and on health, and go for it. It doesn't have to be perfect, just a step in the right direction.
MalibuSkipper responded:
I'm terrified of using the word "fat" in our household as a constant worrier of pushing my child into an eating disorder or somehow having her judge others for their size, as name calling has already began in her kindergarten classroom.

I am always very honest with her about what bad foods can do to your body without mentioning weight-gain. While she doesn't understand things like diabetes and heart disease fully, I explain how these diseases can lead to death, which definitely gets the eyebrows to go up!

My favorite thing to do is to reveal the "super powers" that healthy foods give you! I tell her how carrots help your eyesight, milk gives you bone strength and beans give you protein to run fast. I am in need of more ideas for vegetables, since that is our biggest problem at the moment with my picky eater. Would love veggie ideas??

monamia responded:
This is a fascinating topic for me and the findings don't surprise me.

I grew up in a home where healthy eating and lifestyle was just how we did it. No junk food, no processed foods, lots of exercise. My parents modeled it and we knew nothing else. However, when I hit puberty early, my mother became concerned about the curves I was developing and started putting me on strict diets and hiding foods from me. All that did was make me a secret (and shamed) eater. I went on to have weight issues to this day though I've at least left the yo-yo dieting behind me, and here I am at 50 working again to lose some weight brought on by a health condition and medication.

Because of the above, I took a different approach when raising my own sons but I probably wasn't as strict as I should have been. While one of my sons was always slim and remains so now with healthy eating and lots of exercise, my younger son struggled with weight just like me. At 25 now, he's lost 90 pounds through a long effort of exercise and changing his eating. I'm so proud of his commitment. We did talk about weight, food choices, exercise, throughout their lives, but in my determination not to be as rabid about it as my own mother, I may have been more lax than I should have been.

Now I see my granddaughter at almost 4 years old. She has two slim parents and they eat VERY healthy, largely due to her mother having Diabetes Type 1 and celiac, and her father being lactose intolerant and having other food allergies. So they don't eat processed foods, everything is home prepared cooked and very healthy. And my granddaughter is a happy and active little girl. And yet I see her cravings for sugar and hear her express concerns about getting 'fat'. I don't know where she's getting that from so it's a concern. She has great models in front of her who are not obsessed with weight, but it's already starting for her.

It's such a fine balance. I do agree that it needs to be an ongoing conversation and should focus on health and feeling good and not image or even weight.

I love MalibuSkipper's approach with her own child. Focusing on the positives of healthy foods, and not on weight itself.
SoCalSuz replied to MalibuSkipper's response:
Always focus on health not looks!

MalibuSkipper, you are right never to mention fat!

meekschan responded:
Personally, I don't have any kids, but I do have very tiny siblings in elementary age.

I would never ever call them fat or chunky, however, my mother (the parent) has this thing for yelling to them if they eat candy or bring sweets from school, stop eating that, that's why your fat! or you'll get fat if you eat that!

I don't like that, I don't say it at the moment, but when the kids are away I bring it up to her.

I told her several times to stop yelling at them saying that they are fat because they eat that or they will become fat because they eat that. The kids are actually of normal weight, the two little girls are fairly thin and my little brother is of normal weight with a little more meat on him.

I've noticed that the littlest girl has become too dependent on her eating habits, she's 5, and whenever she wants to eat something, yogurt, or candy or ice cream, she always asks for permission and if she can have the whole thing. If I give her some ice cream on special occasions, she says only one small scoop cause I don't want to be fat.

Right now, they are very young and it seems like they don't have body image issues, I hope they don't get too concerned with what they eat and how they view themselves.

And back to the topic, no I would not call them fat or mention their weight. When I noticed they were getting a little heavy and lazy, I signed them up for swimming classes and now they love it, and they are all more fit and are always bugging me to take them to open swim sessions.
Chris Tiongson, MD replied to meekschan's response:
A supportive message based on health would be better. Finding things they are doing right and finding fun ways to engage in new healthy behaviors (like swimming lessons) is great.

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