Recently, while on vacation, I came face to face with the childhood obesity epidemic. I live in what I call the “Boulder Bubble.” The land of the healthy and fit. So although I'm a health coach who regularly works with clients to build nutrition programs that work, I was caught somewhat off guard when it appeared right in front of my eyes.
But here I was. Disney World. Definitely not the land of the healthy and fit. And it was frightening.
We traveled with friends who had smaller children, ages 6 and 12. Both of them were horrifyingly overweight, yet always hungry. My friend still blames her weight on her last pregnancy (which was 6 years ago), but the foods she put into her body were foods I wouldn’t even glance at if I were to walk by them in a market. No wonder her daughters were so unfortunately afflicted.
Sure, I understand that some people are predisposed to obesity, but when children are obese and sneaking food, we’ve got a major issue on our hands.
All kids do it. In fact, I found my 3 ½-year-old climbing up on the third shelf of our pantry a few days ago, hanging like a monkey while she tried to maneuver the organic, fruit-sweetened gummies out of their box. But if your child has a weight problem and you catch their hands in the cookie jar, here are four ways to help them make better choices.
1. Don't shame your children.
Talk to them. Guess what? They have feelings too. Your kids are sneaking food for a reason, and that reason isn't bad. It tastes good and brings them pleasure and enjoyment. Instead of shaming your children, educate them about why certain foods are better choices.
2. Don’t reward your children with food.
I admit it. It’s easy to do. When my kids act like monsters, I’m tempted to bribe them with treats if they behave. But if you bribe your kids with food or reward them with treats, they'll believe those sweets are “good” foods for them.
3. Get that tempting crap out of your house.
I’m not telling you to never give your children a treat. Everything in moderation. But you know as well as I do that sodas, chips, candy, processed foods and cookies are all foods that are going to make those youngins gain weight. Not to mention the fact that they have ZERO nutritional value. Bring in some healthier alternatives. Change your children’s palette to kale chips and coconut macaroons instead. Trust me. It can be done. If they're hungry, they will eat.
4. Eat with your children.
You set the example. Sit down with them and show them what it means to eat well. If you are not eating healthy foods, you can bet your children aren’t learning great habits either.
Do you have any stories you can share? Have you ever encountered a problem like this with your kids? What did you do? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts below.