Talking to Your Children About Weight Loss

Last night I spent some time in Yahoo! Answers, which is a really interesting online place where people can post all kinds of questions and answers. In the past I have asked a number of questions about weight loss in the health section and have had many people sharing their thoughts and advice that really helped me. And now it feels really good to be able to help other people who are trying to lose weight by going back there and answering other people’s questions. So last night I was writing away in Yahoo! Answers for about an hour and during that time I was struck by how many weight loss questions are being posted by young people. I read a number of questions posted by 10 to 14 year old children that were all focused on wanting to lose weight. And some of the methods that they have been trying to lose weight with were a nightmare – starvation diets and extreme low-carb diets just to name a couple. By the sheer volume of questions about weight loss by young people in Yahoo! Answers it is apparent that this is an area of education for young people that is being grossly overlooked.

Talking to your children about healthy ways to lose weight can help them to avoid dangerous dieting methods that can lead to eating disorders.

Talking to your children about healthy ways to lose weight can help them avoid dangerous dieting methods that can lead to eating disorders.

Perhaps the problem is that talking to children about weight loss is almost as delicate and convoluted a topic as sexual education is. In fact, I would bet that many of these kids who are asking weight loss questions on Yahoo know more about sex than they do about losing weight in a healthy way. I was really hesitant at first to even write answers for some of these children’s questions because I have no idea what the proper way to speak to a young person about weight loss would be, but in the end I chose the no-nonsense, honest approach. I know that a number of them didn’t like my answers because I told them that what they were doing to lose weight was unhealthy, but hopefully some heeded my advice and took what they needed from it.

Although I don’t have any children myself, I have a number of friends with kids and I called a couple of my girlfriends last night for their opinions about how they think talking to children about weight loss should be handled. These were wonderful conversations I wish I could have taped for you, but instead I will summarize as best I can.

If you have battled with your weight at any time in your life, you know how hard it can be to hear someone tell you that you have to lose weight. Some are so insensitive that they blurt out that you are fat and need to stop eating, which is something that happens to younger people when they are at school and hanging out with their friends. These things are hard to hear, even if we know they are true. When it comes to dealing with children, things get even trickier. You have to be very careful how you talk to them about weight and weight loss, whether it is your own endeavor or something they should be doing. How you handle this can shape them for life.

When you are talking to your children about your own weight loss, you have to be careful to make it about health and not about vanity. Children as young as first and second grades are now calling each other fat and worrying about how much they eat. While good health is important, this means something is very wrong with our society. They are way to young to be consumed with thoughts about their appearance and body weight. Perfectly healthy children think they are fat and are on the fast track to an eating disorder.

If you are not eating, or if you are eating things that are different from what you are feeding them, they are going to notice. You can choose not to talk with them about what you are doing, but you do so at a risk. They will come up with their own conclusions, and those thoughts may not be right. Your best bet is to talk with them about good health and staying fit to live a longer life (see the related post “Sharing Your Weight Loss Goals“). Do not talk about how fat you feel or that you want to be ‘thin’ or ‘skinny.’ Those are harmful words, even if that is exactly what you are thinking.

When you want to put your children on a diet, do so in the same manner. You have to change the menu for the entire family – not just for the kids. Explain that you are making healthier choices for everyone because you feel that your meals are not doing anyone any good. Find ways to have family activity time, but do not talk about weight loss. Instead, get moving and have fun. Do not make it seem like a chore but rather something to look forward to as family time together (for another great post about this, see “Family Weight Loss“).

When your children come to you and talk about feeling fat, losing weight, and looking good, you have to take the time to listen to what they say. You can do all that you can to reassure them that you think they look great, but they are not always going to buy it. It depends on their age and what they have been exposed to through friends and media. Sometimes, the best you can do is to be honest, show them acceptance no matter what, and keep your eyes open for bigger problems like emotional eating, anorexia or other types of eating disorders that could become medically problematic.

If you are a parent of a child, regardless of whether they are overweight or not, it is a good idea to sit down with them and have a heart-to-heart about how they feel about their body weight. If your child is overweight, or you feel they may be heading in that direction, do not ignore this problem because guaranteed it is something that they are thinking about all the time. Just as it is with sex, if parents take a more active role in education their children about healthy body image, nutrition, exercise and healthy ways to lose weight then there is a better chance that these kids will grow up to be healthy adults.


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5 comments to Talking to Your Children About Weight Loss

  • weight loss discounts

    The best article I have read on child weight loss!!! Great writing thanks for the information

  • Herbalife

    Great Article on child weight loss. I agree and know that many weight issue begin at childhood and if you do not get them under control and good communication with your child. Could lead to a life long battle for that child.

  • yvonne

    Hi,
    Great site!!!!! Good health is very important with the high cost of medical coverage. We need to have a healther lifestyle by taking care of our health eating and exercising. I am a cancer survivor and I know. Our health is our greatest asset. Keep up the Good Work!!!!!

  • Jackson Parker

    I appreciated your blog. Obesity among children is a growing problem in America. It is difficult for children to go on a diet that requires strenuous effort, self-discipline and patience. It’s important for parents to be involved in their children’s diet and exercise program, encourage and support them in every way towards better health. To help speed the process of weight loss, I’ve noticed that drinking 5 to 6 cups of Green Tea helps. I read about studies that show that Green tea is a fat burner and can help you lose weight more quickly. If your child does not like the taste of Green tea, you can give him Green Tea Plus—it’s a concentrate. Just a few drops is equal to 6 cups of Green tea. It’s a simple, but effective way to help lose pounds more quickly!

  • Jason – There is little doubt that drinking green tea can have some benefit to losing weight. I have discussed the benefits of drinking green tea many times and summarized one experience I had in the post “Do Tea Diets Really Work?“. For adults, I think green tea can be helpful in weight loss, however I would not recommend intentionally giving children caffeine. I’m pretty sure that giving a child Green Tea Plus concentrated tea like you suggest, which is the equivalent to 6 cups of greet tea, is a recipe for disaster. Children should be taught about healthy eating and the importance of exercise. I wouldn’t be encouraging them to take weight loss supplements, even if it is made from green tea. Thanks for your suggestion.

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