Should I Say Something to My Kid About Their Weight?

“I’m torn. Should I say something to my child about their weight, or just keep quiet?”

If your kid is struggling with their weight, you’ve probably been tempted to say something to them about it. But as you know, especially if you struggled with your own weight when you were younger, these kinds of conversations can have lifelong consequences.

When you were a child, did an adult ever offer a well-meaning—but hurtful—comment about your weight?

Maybe you heard one of these:

  • “You shouldn’t eat so much, you’ll just gain more weight.”

  • “Are you sure you want that snack? You don’t want your friends to make fun of you, do you?”

  • “Don’t eat that. You don’t want to get fat.”

If you heard comments like this from a teacher, family member, or your own parents, you probably remember the embarrassment of it in excruciating detail: where you were, what you were wearing, the way the room looked—everything.

Isn’t there something fascinating about how you can remember exactly what was said and how it makes you feel decades later?

But what really drove that adult to comment on your weight? If they were someone who cared about you, they probably had good intentions, but didn’t know how to express themselves in a loving way. These mistakes are honest and human, but can cause pain that may stick around for years.

Of course, if you see your kid heading down a path that can lead to issues like heart disease and diabetes, helping them be healthier is a good and loving action. If you’ve ever struggled with weight, you know how it feels to lose weight just to gain it all back, the constant battle with the scale, the desperation you feel when no diet works and the resignation that this is just how things are. It makes sense to want to save your child from that.

When it comes to parenting, there are few easy answers, but there are ways to help your child become physically healthier—while still supporting them emotionally. Here are a few things you can do (and some things to avoid) to help your kid live their healthiest, happiest life:

Consider the labels you may be using.

Clients have shared that these are some of the labels their friends and family applied to them when they were younger:

  • “He’s a bottomless pit.”

  • “Just give him the leftovers—he’ll eat anything.”

  • “She eats her emotions.”

Sadly, these are some of the tamer comments—many people experience much worse. But even if the comments may seem innocuous, labels like these can quickly turn into an identity. When a kid is told that they overeat or that they are emotional eaters, they internalize these statements as facts that have a strong grip on them as adults.

Let’s take a look at a couple of scientific studies that confirm these stories: In one 2017 study, researchers asked 501 women (ages 20 to 35) how satisfied they were with their weight and also asked them to recall comments their parents made about their weight and eating habits when they were younger. What did they find? The women who remembered their parents’ comments were more dissatisfied with their adult weight.

And one 2014 study showed that being labeled “too fat” as a child increased the odds of obesity a decade later, indicating that today’s comments can have dramatic effects years later.

Even a small comment—something seemingly innocent, like “Do you think you need that extra piece of cake?”—can be harmful in the long-run.

But your child’s health is far too important to just stand by and watch them make unhealthy choices. Their weight can affect their self-image, their confidence, their health, and their long-term happiness.

Instead of commenting on their weight, make some positive changes at home. After all, the best way to change your child’s habits is to show them how to eat healthy and be active—instead of simply telling them.

Make your home a place of healthy eating.

Life is hectic. When you hurry home from work, race your child to practice, and get back home just in time for homework, it’s tempting to skip healthy meals in favor of options like chicken fingers, pizza, cereal, and potato chips.

Why? Well, the answer is simple: When we’re hungry and pressed for time, we turn to what’s quick and easy.

The question to ask is, “How can we make healthy eating as easy as possible?”

First, take stock of what’s in your home now. What foods are on the counters? What do you see first when you open the refrigerator? Are they the foods you’d rather your children skip?

Make it easy to do the right thing:

Keep a bowl of healthy snacks on the counter. Stock it with apples, bananas, kale chips, almonds, and other satisfying, healthy snacks your kid can easily grab.

What about meals?

I have heard a lot of excuses for eating unhealthily at home—mostly variations on “I’m just not a good cook” or “I don’t have time to make a meal.” But many impressive success stories start off here. Here a few of my clients’ best strategies that have worked in the past:

1.) Harness the magic of a slow cooker. Can making a healthy meal really be as simple as throwing three ingredients in a pot, flipping a switch, and letting it cook for six hours? Absolutely!

If you’re looking for some healthy recipes, here are 77 Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes sure to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner a breeze!

2.) Use a meal kit. The popularity of kits like Blue Apron, Plated, and Sunbasket have exploded over the last few years because of their simplicity.

These meals show up at your door with the ingredients you need, already measured, and ready to cook. And the best part: since all the chopping is done for you, you can easily get your children involved in making the meal!

3.) Meal prep for the week. Meal kits are great, but they are pricey. Meal prepping is kind of like making your own DIY meal kits: You can prepare some (or all) of your meals ahead of time. If you have a slow Sunday, use those precious hours to make the rest of the week easier. Or prep strategically in advance of certain days of the week. If you know that Wednesdays are a non-stop race, prepare what you’ll eat on Wednesday over the weekend.

Ask questions while you eat.

Having a conversation with your child during mealtime is the perfect opportunity to teach them about food and healthy eating habits. You will want to avoid the diet mentality and an “Eat this, not that” approach. Instead of focusing on specific foods, turn your attention to hunger and fullness instead.

Here’s a strategy health experts use with their children at the dinner table. First, ask them:

1.) “What does hunger feel like to you?”

Be careful not to answer the question for them, instead let them explain how it really feels to them. Then, follow up with:

2.) “How do you know when you are full?”

And eventually:

3.) “What does it feel like when you are too full?”

At a restaurant, I’ll ask my son, “Can you tell me at what point you feel satisfied?”

Satisfied is when you’re not too hungry and not too full. It’s that moment where you know you’ve eaten just enough. Often, it is when he has eaten slightly more than half of his meal.

And the perfect question to ask next is, “What would you like to do with the rest?” Then pause…and let them make the decision.

Sometimes the choice is to box up the leftovers to take home, and sometimes it is to eat the rest. But the point is to teach your child awareness. This way, they can learn when they’re satisfied and not let the serving size dictate how much they should eat.

Show them you are serious about your health.

Your children model your behavior. As parents, we don’t always wish this were true—we hope only our good behaviors, like honesty and patience, rub off on our children. But the truth is, unhealthy habits stick too. Research shows parents have incredible influence over their child’s habits, so make sure you are setting a model that will serve them.

But how?

Completely overhauling your life seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. But don’t let the size of the change keep you from taking the first step. Your goal is progress, not perfection.

If you want your child to eat healthy, start with the very next meal you have together. Show them what eating healthy looks like. Or better yet, get them involved—let them pick out the foods, let them cook. The more involved they feel, the more likely they are to join.

If you want them to be more active, how about signing up for that 5k you’ve always wanted to run. When your child sees you being active and witnesses the changes you make, your actions will speak louder than any advice you can give.

Start small. One simple action builds momentum.

A great place to start is with our free 7-day mini-course. You’ll receive an email a day for the next seven days where I will teach you the best strategies we have compiled from over a decade of coaching.

Are you ready to take the first step? Join today. You’ll have a coach with you for daily accountability and support. Coaches know how overwhelming it can be to just start. You’ll work with your coach to find a strategy that works for you, your life, your schedule, and your family.

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