Having an overweight child is one of my greatest failures and shames as a mother. Let me be clear. I am not ashamed of my son in any way whatsoever. My shame comes from the fact that I allowed him to become overweight and unhealthy. I provided unhealthy eating choices and didn’t encourage healthy eating habits.
Honestly, whenever I saw a child that was overweight, I would think to myself, “How could any parent let their child become overweight? Do they not even care about their child’s health?” Terrible, I know. And now here I am with an overweight child. Believe me, I feel like such a hypocrite. How could I have let this happen? Truly, I am the only one to blame.
My son is 9 years old and is not obese, yet. However, he definitely has hit the overweight mark.
To give you a little background about my son, he had difficulty eating when he was a baby due to a heart defect that he was born with. He ate very little due to the fact that the actually act of eating was exhausting for him. During that time, I had to record the number of ounces of breast milk he drank daily, and he rarely met the required amount that he needed.
When my son was two months old, he had open heart surgery to correct the heart defect that he was born with. After his surgery, he didn’t have the same issues with eating. However, he still really didn’t eat that much. Even as a toddler, he was an extremely picky eater.
As my son grew, he remained smaller than other children his age. He continued to be a picky eater and didn’t have great eating habits.
However, when my son turned 8 years old, he suddenly wanted to eat all the time. So, of course, I was all for him eating whatever he wanted anytime. That was a huge mistake.
I needed to take action. I was responsible for this, and now I needed to do everything in my power to fix it.
Obviously, being overweight is unhealthy for my son, but it will also affect his self-confidence in the future. I want my son to be confident and successful in everything he does. His weight should not define him or hold him back.
So do I put him on a diet? What kind of diet is safe for a growing child? Where should I start?
Clearly, I am not a doctor or weight loss professional. However, I do know that you need to be very careful when you are trying to help a child lose weight. Children are still growing. Therefore, people will often seek the help of a doctor or nutritionist. Depending on your situation, you may want to do just that.
However, in my situation, I followed these three strategies to help my son safely lose weight.
Set a Goal
There has to be some goal and time frame to reach the goal established. Otherwise, you will never know if you are making progress or understand what you are striving for.
My son needs to lose about 10-15 pounds to be in the healthy weight range for his age and height. So my goal for him is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. That’s one pound a week. If he loses more than one pound in a week, then that’s just a bonus. However, I want my son’s weight loss goal to be reachable and done safely. Setting a goal helps my son visualize what he’s working for and holds him accountable.
Change Eating Habits
You could count calories or make special meals if you like. However, I did the following when it came to my son’s eating habits:
Control portion sizes
In the past, I rarely controlled my son’s portions at mealtime or snack time. If he wanted seconds at lunch or dinner, I allowed it. So I started here first. I began limiting his portion sizes during mealtime because I was feeding him more food than he really needed.
Now, if my son wants more to eat, he is only allowed to eat more vegetables or fruit. Currently, my son doesn’t like many vegetables or fruits, so often he just doesn’t eat any more food when offered this option. However, I am trying not only to control his portion sizes but change his eating habits. I am hoping that eventually he will begin eating more fruits and vegetables.
Include Healthy Snacks
Many of children’s snacks sold today are packaged and full of processed ingredients that I can’t even pronounce. I have been guilty of giving my son these snacks for many years. However, I realized that I had to change this when my son only wanted these packaged and processed snacks over other healthier options.
Here are the snacks that I now offer my son: almonds, cashews, dried fruit, cheese stick with whole wheat crackers, homemade granola, apple and peanut butter, low-fat yogurt, grapes, and air popped popcorn. I am sure that you could add many more healthy options to this list, but my son is still a picky eater. However, I continue to offer him new fruits and vegetables in hopes that he will like them some day.
I also only offer one healthy snack between mealtimes. This allows my son to still enjoy snacks, but not have unlimited snacks whenever he feels like eating.
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My son has never been a kid who truly enjoyed sports. He’s more of a spectator rather than a player. Needless to say, exercise is not his favorite activity. However, I have made a few changes in our house to increase his activity.
First, I bought my son a Fitbit Flex 2. This has been an excellent investment. My son has become more aware of his activity or the lack of in some cases.
The Fitbit Flex 2 alerts him when he needs to move, and it’s waterproof! He loves to wear it swimming, and it tracks his steps along with his exercise.
My son knows that he must get one hour of exercise a day along with his 10,000 steps. The Fitbit Flex 2 makes him responsible and accountable for his progress, not his nagging mother. I can’t say enough about how much I love his Fitbit.
The hour of exercise can be reached by walking on our treadmill, bike riding with me, swimming, or a game of Just Dance on the PlayStation 4. Whenever possible, I try to encourage physical activity, and I also try to make it fun.
I want to teach my son that physical activity, healthy eating, and having a healthy weight go hand in hand. I want him to grow up to be healthy and not have weight issues as an adult.
To be honest, this process hasn’t been easy for either of us, but I know it’s important. The first couple of weeks were tough. We had a few meltdowns together over junk food and desserts. However, I just keep reminding my son what his goals are and what he has accomplished so far. I also tell him how much I love him and how important his health is to me and everyone that loves him.
It is getting easier, and my son is making progress. He is losing at least 1 pound or more each week by using these strategies. But most importantly, my son is realizing how important healthy eating and exercise is in staying fit and healthy, which is a lesson that I want him to hold on to for life.
If you have an overweight child, I would love to know some strategies that have worked for you.