A Tough Love approach to Health and Fitness
Yesterday at the grocery store, I came across a child, who was about 8-years-old. She was lying on the floor flailing her arms and legs yelling “I want a chocolate bar.” I could have predicted the outcome. The child continued to scream until mom put a chocolate bar in the cart. The crying ceased instantly.
As they passed, I took note of the contents of the grocery cart – Coco Puffs cereal, soda, 3 bulk bags of potato chips, chocolate covered granola bars, macaroni & cheese, hot dogs…you get the drift. Try as I might I couldn’t help but feel scared for that child’s future.
You see, a long time ago I was that obese little girl. I was unhappy with my body, but I dulled the pain by eating – chips, chocolate bars, hotdogs. I threw tantrums because I knew my mother didn’t have the patience and would just give me what I wanted.
By the age of 12 I was 4-foot, 11-inches and 135-pounds. My doctor put me on a restrictive diet. However, I would steal money from my parents to buy candy. It didn’t make sense to me. I was allowed to eat those foods before. Why were punishing me? I hated myself more.
In the early 80’s, being a fat child was rare. However in 2006 one in three North American kids are overweight. Both parents likely have full time jobs, which means less time for healthy meals and exercise. Fast food and activities have taken over the family roost.
I’m sorry I have to lay this responsibility on the parents, but kids only practice what you preach. If they see you eating poorly; they’ll follow suit.
Practice what you preach by adopting and enforcing these health and fitness family lifestyle changes:
• Explain the difference between health food choices and non-healthy food choices.
• Sit down and compile a weekly grocery lists with your child.
• Let them go with you to the grocery store and shop only for the foods on the list.
• Get kids involved in preparing healthy meals, so they adopt healthy habits for life.
• It’s normal to shelter our kids from ridicule. However if your child is obese their health is at risk and tough love encouragement is needed, for example: “honey, you are overweight, but I believe in you and I’ll support you because I love you.”
• Never use food as a reward. Instead reward them with mini-golfing or baseball.
• Ditch the clean-plate policy. If your child is full, don’t force them to finish.
• Institute an open policy about food. Kids should be comfortable telling you when they’re hungry and not hungry without fear you’ll get mad.
• Don’t eliminate snacks. It will lead to lying and binge eating outside the home. Instead plan a cheat meal once a week when they’re allowed any foods they want.
• Encourage physical activity. It will get them up and out and encourage them to socialize with other active kids.
• Never allow eating in front of the TV. This encourages passive eating, and the child won’t concentrate on how much they’re eating or when they’re full.
• Limit TV or video games to 1 hour per day. The rest of the time, keep them busy with outdoor activities.