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          Helping Your Overweight Child

          September 12, 2002

          Approximately 14 percent of children in the United States are obese. This is a disturbing and dangerous statistic. As a parent, there are things you can to do help your overweight child.

          Avoid Verbal Abuse
          If you think that making derogatory comments about your child’s appearance will shame him/her into losing weight, you’re wrong. You will cause anger, hurt and resentment. Worse than that, you’ll condition your child to develop negative labels (“I’m just a pig,” “I’ll never be good at sports,” or “Nobody will want to date me when I grow up,”) that could be lasting.
          Introduce Positive Labels
          Don’t you think your child wants to feel better, get back energy, vitality and self-esteem? Instead of providing criticism and judgment, you can provide help and encouragement. Start offering positive labels: “I can achieve whatever I set out to do,” or “I am loved and valued.”
          Look at Why They Eat
          Instead of looking at what your child eats, look into why he/she eats. Childhood obesity can be a symptom of stress. If your child is self-medicating with food, what is being medicated? Adults often turn to drugs and/or alcohol to self-medicate when they are looking to fill a void or cope with stress. Children often turn to food.
          Look at Your Lifestyle
          If your lifestyle is contributing to your child’s obesity, change it. If you keep junk food in the house, stop. If your schedule is so hectic that your family is forced to eat high-fat, low-nutrition meals like fast food, you need to slow down. If your family life is centered around sedentary activities like watching TV, make an effort to include some form of physical activity in your child’s life.

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