WEIGHT MANAGEMENT and KIDS: How do I manage my children’s weight?

nutrition-child

Wow.  This is a tough one.  We often find ourselves struggling to manage and balance our own eating and exercise, how do we do this for our kids too?  Believe it or not, this is the most asked question I get – as soon as someone finds out I’m a nutritionist.  Immediately, adults think about their kids and how to help them.  This is noble and admirable but I find myself wanting to turn the question around and ask that adult what they are doing for themselves in terms of exercise and healthy eating?

Generally speaking, young kids – pre-pubescent kids, follow the patterns that we as adults have set for them.  Do you eat a lot of fast food?  Then, it shouldn’t surprise you that your children do too.  By the time your children are in middle school, they are making many decisions about food without you.  Like so many other patterns and habits we instill in our children (i.e. make your bed in the morning, brush your teeth, do your homework before watching T.V.), our eating habits are established over time.  Kids will eat what they see us eating.  My advice, then?  As parents, we need to eat and exercise the way we want our little ones to learn how to eat and exercise.

If a healthy lifestyle was not a priority as your children were young but is now, this is a change the family needs to make together.  I’ve seen overweight, over-stressed parents look to help their overweight children and their efforts are rooted in a deep love for their children.  The answer is that it is a family affair.  Make it a family priority now.  See help from a nutritionist or health coach.  Major lifestyle changes are easier to tackle when you have your team or family making those changes with you.

Sometimes we set our kids up for success and things don’t always go as planned.  Perhaps your teenage daughter knows how to eat properly but is struggling to manage the stress of exams and social pressures while trying to decide where she is going to go to college.  Perhaps she deals with these pressures by eating a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies – we all do it sometimes!  Everything you taught her growing up about eating healthy doesn’t seem to be computing.  My advice is to show her love and support not just with food consumption but with the pressures she is facing.  If need be, get outside support for her.

Possibly, the most disturbing of all related questions I have to children is, “How do I put weight on my teenage son?”  Many parents of athletes are looking to build muscle mass and “bulk” up their sons to be more competitive in their sport.  I know many coaches and gym rats will hate me for this, but I cringe when I hear this, let me explain why:

1)   Boys who haven’t gone through puberty completely are NOT going to put the weight on and build the muscle mass they are looking for.

2)   Forcing the body to do it artificially through supplements, powders, shakes or steroids is creating long term metabolic changes in their bodies.

3)   If a teenage boy is under pressure to “bulk up” and is not seeing results in protein supplements and shakes, the next step is anabolic steroids which are both illegal and have long term negative side effects.

This is such a hot topic, I could devote an entire lifetime researching and debating it.  My best recommendation to those looking to put weight on their children or athletes is to do so naturally.  Add lean proteins like boneless chicken breast, greek yoghurt, cottage cheese or eggs and consume more nutrient dense calories like sweet potatoes, green veggies, etc.

Finally, if the family lifestyle approach does not work for your weight gain or weight loss, enlist a certified Health Coach or Nutritionist along with your family physician to help you and your kids!

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