Talking to your child about obesity

(WVLT) -- The "Raising Fit Kids" national study surveyed more than 2,200 parents and kids on their opinions and perspectives on weight and obesity risk. Here's what was discovered:
-Parents of teens reported that it is easier for them to talk about sex than their kids' weight. Weight ranked dead last among a list of topics, including sex, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, that parents felt comfortable discussing with their teens.
-Nearly 25% of parents report that they have never discussed weight management and obesity risk with their children, even though parents admit that being overweight poses an immediate health risk to their kids.
-Nearly 20% of parents and 23% of kids believe doctors should be responsible for teaching children about the risks of being overweight.
-Three out of four kids would be embarrassed to talk to their parents about their weight, despite the fact that 85% of kids know being overweight is unhealthy.

"Clearly, both parents and kids are avoiding discussions on weight, which only serves to exacerbate the problem. Kids need consistent and effective parental guidance on managing their weight, just as they would on any other issue that affects their immediate and long-term personal health. The key is getting these conversations started early on," says Dr. Susan Bartell, nationally recognized parenting and child psychologist and award-winning author.

The problem usually starts with the discomfort level. Why are parents so uncomfortable talking about weight issues? Dr. Bartell says, "Some parents feel that their kids are at a healthy weight even when they're not and so they don't have the conversation with them. Some parents are worried that if they talk to their kids about weight that it might trigger an eating disorder and the survey also interviewed doctors, and the doctors feel that some parents don't talk to their kids about it because they themselves are overweight so they feel a little reluctant to bring it up with their kids."

It's never too early to talk to children about weight, it's more about how you approach the subject. "Parents can begin talking to their kids as young as 2 or 3 years old and keep going all into their teen years. You have to approach it by talking about health, by talking about how we have to refuel our bodies for energy...make sure we're getting enough sleep...make sure we're making good choices...not talking about weight or dieting or saying things like "you're fat" and "you need to do something about it" so we want to focus on the really positive aspects of it and the fit initiative really helps parents to do that."

The Fit Inititative gives parents and kids an opportunity to meet online where you can learn about four different areas: exercise, food, recharging your body and your feelings. All factors are important for health. The Fit Initiative also helps families make small changes, one at a time.

A major factor through research in againing weight is not getting enough sleep. Dr. Bartell says "You're gonna have less energy for exercising, so you need to help to make sure your kids go to bed at a regular bedtime. Take away the electronics from them about a half an hour or 45 minutes before bed to make sure that they start to unwind and you yourself should role model that too, by not staying up too late."

Some ideas for parents to get started in keeping their families healthy is to "Make mostly healthy food choices and you don't want to take away everything your child loves, so you want to try and substitute something. For example, instead of fried chicken nuggets you can bake your chicken nuggets. Instead of drinking soda, you can drink sparkling water that's a little bit flavored," says Bartell.

Most importantly, make small changes that your child can manage with and be sure to make exercise fun. Something as siple as going out to the playground with your young child and bouncing a ball can greatly benefit both you and your child.

For more information on The Fit Inititative and the study, visit:


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