I know. Who would have thought, right?
As it turns out, not only will teasing an overweight child or teenager not help motivate them to lose weight; the teasing could actually contribute to an increase in weight.
According to a new study, children who were teased or ridiculed about their weight saw an annual increase in weight by 33 percent.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health theorize weight-associated stigma might have led to the youths engaging in unhealthy behavior, such as avoiding exercise and binge eating, or that the stress of being teased and ridiculed stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to weight gain.
So, how can we help motivate overweight or obese children and teens to eat healthier and get more active, without coming across as teasing, bullying, or judgmental? Keep these factors in mind.
1. Parents Are the Biggest Role Models.
As your child’s parent, you’re the biggest role model. Whether she knows it or not, your child is looking to you for direction when it comes to lifestyle choices so take inventory of your attitude toward diet and exercise! WebMD lists numerous ways you can plan age-appropriate activities the whole family can do together.
2. Make Small Changes for Big Results.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) reminds us that slow and steady wins the race. There’s no room for crash diets when it comes to helping your child or teen lose weight (there’s no room for crash diets anywhere, for that matter!).
Take a look at how you can make small changes toward a healthier diet and more active lifestyle for your child, including everything from making sure your kid is getting enough sleep to limiting daily screen time.
3. Focus Less On Weight and More On Health.
Small changes are great, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few big changes, too.
For example, the Cleveland Clinic lists several practical ways you can encourage healthy behavior changes including sticking to annual doctor visits and cooking as a family. Jennifer Brubaker, PhD, FNP-BC, part of the multidisciplinary team in the Cleveland Clinic’s BeWell Kids Clinic for children with obesity and associated issues, takes that a step further by suggesting getting kids involved with their foods from the very beginning:
For families that are super motivated, having a garden and getting the kids invested in growing their own food is a good way to encourage fruits and vegetables, and it’s also a good way to get the kids more active.
4. Avoid Being a Pain in the Neck.
Nagging, suffocating, and being a general annoyance won’t get you far; it might have the same result as teasing.
Brush up on ways to support your child during his journey toward a healthier life such as being a cheerleader and not a coach and celebrating goals with non-food incentives, as well as things to avoid like not becoming to “food police” and being mindful not to use criticizing and judgmental language.
5. Don’t Hurt Your Child’s Feelings.
This might seem like it goes without saying (after all, who sets out to hurt their child’s feelings?), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways parents can accidentally do just that.
Check in with LIVESTRONG.COM on how to help your child lose weight without hurting her feelings and find out ways to respond to the “f” word, how to validate your kid’s feelings, ways you can discourage negative self-talk, and more.
How about YOU, readers? Have you helped a child or teenager lose weight? What lessons did you learn? Or, were you a child or teen who needed to lose weight and get healthier? Did a parent or other adult help you and if so, did the help do more harm than good? Let us know in the comments below!