Addressing a woman's health and weight before she conceives could lead to improvements in childhood obesity. If you're overweight and thinking of becoming pregnant, losing weight and eating well might affect your child's future. Eating well throughout pregnancy might also have a positive impact on your baby's later food choices.
To give your infant a healthy start, the World Health Organization recommends exclusively breast-feeding for 6 months.
If your child is overweight or obese, his or her best chance to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to start eating a healthy diet and exercising more. Here are some steps you can take at home to help your child succeed:
- Be a role model. Choose healthy foods and active pastimes for yourself. If you need to lose weight, doing so will motivate your child to do likewise.
- Involve the whole family. Make healthy eating a priority and emphasize how important it is for everyone to be physically active. This avoids singling out the child who is overweight.
Parents play a crucial role in helping children who are obese feel loved and in control of their weight. Take advantage of every opportunity to build your child's self-esteem. Don't be afraid to bring up the topic of health and fitness, but do be sensitive that a child may view your concern as an insult. Talk to your kids directly, openly, and without being critical or judgmental.
In addition, consider the following:
- Avoid weight talk. Negative comments about your own, someone else's or your child's weight can be hurtful to your child, even if they're well-intended. Negative talk about weight can lead to poor body image. Instead, focus your conversation on healthy eating and positive body image.
- Discourage dieting and skipping meals. Instead, encourage and support healthy eating and increased physical activity.
- Find reasons to praise your child's efforts. Celebrate small, incremental changes in behavior but don't reward with food. Choose other ways to mark your child's accomplishments, such as going to the bowling alley or a local park.
- Talk to your child about his or her feelings. Help your child find ways other than eating to deal with emotions.
- Help your child focus on positive goals. For example, point out that he or she can now bike for more than 20 minutes without getting tired or can run the required number of laps in gym class.
- Be patient. Realize that an intense focus on your child's eating habits and weight can easily backfire, leading a child to overeat even more or possibly making him or her more prone to developing an eating disorder.
Whether your child is at risk of becoming overweight or currently at a healthy weight, you can take measures to get or keep things on the right track.
- Limit your child's consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Eat meals as a family as often as possible
- Limit eating out, especially at fast-food restaurants
- Adjust portion sizes appropriately for age
- Limit TV and other screen time
Also, be sure your child sees the doctor for well-child checkups at least once a year. During this visit, the doctor measures your child's height and weight and calculates his or her BMI. An increase in your child's BMI or in his or her percentile rank over one year is a possible sign that your child is at risk of becoming overweight.
Nov. 17, 2016
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