Throughout the world, people come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. It’s important that children understand that poeple come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and that someone’s size does not define who they are, nor does it explain whether they are healthy or not.
Children can be at risk for size prejudice, and sometimes larger than average kids and smaller or thinner children are targets for cruel treatment from their peers. “Health at any size” is a peaceful message that focuses on eating well, living actively, and feeling good about themselves and others.
Explain to your children that a person gets to be their “right-size” by having a healthy lifestyle. If someone eats nutrient-dense foods, is physically active on most days, and is getting enough sleep, they are growing the way they should be. Weight is not always a good indicator of health.
It is more important to have a healthy lifestyle than to focus on weight. Never pressure a child to lose or gain weight as this can make them feel helpless and hopeless. Children need to feel loved and accepted regardless of their size.
Here are some ways to help your child develop healthy attitudes:
- Be a good role model.
- Talk with your child about what it means to be healthy and how to make healthy decisions.
- Discuss how physical activity and good food choices help their bodies get strong and stay healthy.
- Aim for at least one hour of physical activity daily. Limit screen time (computers, television, mobile devices, video games) to no more than two hours each day.
- Involve the whole family in healthful living. Never single out an overweight or underweight child.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Check out my previous article, “Get Sleeping.”
- Stock your home with healthy foods.
- Establish regular mealtime eating habits – three meals a day and one or two snacks. Help your children respond to their internal hunger and fullness signals, so they eat when hungry and stop when full.
- Teach about eating from all the five food groups and how to aim for variety.
- Don’t make your child clean their plate.
- Discourage eating in front of the television, computer, or other electronic device and focus on family meals often.
- Teach positive self-talk, self-acceptance, and self-respect. Discuss respect for others and appreciation of diversity.