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 – Cocoa 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, and 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 FitnessGear101.com family lifestyle changes:

• Explain the difference between healthy food choices and non-healthy food choices.

• Sit down and compile 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.


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