Parents in the Spotlight: How you can model healthy habits

There may be a few reasons why you’re here. Maybe your child has come home from school crying, saying that someone has called them fat. Maybe you’ve noticed that they’re falling behind in PE class. Or maybe, your child has started obsessing over their weight all of a sudden. As a parent, all of these situations can be very daunting. You love your child with all of your heart, and seeing them like this can leave you feeling very lost.

Weight isn’t everything. All that matters is that your child is healthy. But chances are, you’re here because you recognise there is an opportunity for change. You recognise that there is a problem and you want to fix it, and that is always the hardest step to take!

Before everything else, your child needs your support. Your child might be left feeling worthless or unloved. They need to be told how beautiful they are, despite their size! Make sure they are completely satisfied before making any big changes. Do they need to talk about it? Do they want to get the school involved? Always keep an open conversation going with your child.

The second thing you should consider is: what’s the game plan? Your child is feeling this way…so how do we fix that? What’s the end goal?

Well, if you ask me, the end goal for your child (and the whole family) shouldn’t be to lose weight but to live a healthier life overall. This involves changing habits, and changing habits as a family.

It can be hard changing old habits. In fact, it takes about 21 days for a particular activity to become a habit. Fortunately, I’ve got some ways you can slowly ease yourself and your children into a healthier way of life:

  1. Practice what you preach. Children are like sponges, they absorb everything around them. So if you want to see healthy habits in them, you need to start living healthy yourself. Your children are going to take you way more seriously if they see you eating the foods you’re telling them to eat, or doing the exercise you’re telling them to do.
  2. Talk positively about food. Talk to your child about how nutritious that apple they’re eating is – eg. “apples are good for your heart!”. Compliment them for trying new foods – “I’m so proud of you for eating those brussel sprouts. Do you know how good they are for your body?”
  3. Involve the kids when preparing meals. Next time you’re making a fruit salad, invite the kids to come to the kitchen and help you. You could also ask them to read out the recipe when you’re making dinner. When your children feel like they’re a part of something, they’re more likely to keep doing it in the long run.
  4. Make physical activity fun. We need to teach kids that physical activity can be just as fun as that game they’re playing online. Why not incorporate physical activity into your next family event? Instead of going out to eat or watching a movie together, grab your bikes and go for a ride. Your kids won’t even know they’re doing wonders for their wellbeing, and in the meantime, they’ll have heaps of fun!
  5. Find “incidental” ways to be active. Perhaps the house needs a good clean. Or maybe you forgot some groceries from the supermarket down the road. These are great opportunities to be active! Grab the kids and go for a walk to the supermarket, or give out the feather-dusters and assign each family member a room to clean. You’ll have a spotless house (or a full pantry), all while getting a great workout.

Keep in mind, that sometimes overweight and obesity in children is not only due to lifestyle habits. It’s important to consult a GP to see if anything else is wrong before doing anything drastic.

Article author: Tiya Kazi, Nutritionist, Bachelor of Health Sciences, U.Q