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Leading By Example
At a time when almost one third of youth are overweight or obese, health professionals, schools and parents all have a crucial role to play in addressing this health crisis.
As a parent, you play the most important role in your child’s overall well-being – including their weight.  It is difficult for children to successfully improve their eating and exercise patterns if parents are not doing the same. You serve as a powerful role model. It is important for parents to make and foster healthy lifestyle changes as an entire family, rather than making healthy eating and activity a priority for only your child. 

Here are some tips and strategies to help you lead by example and make living a healthy lifestyle a family affair:
  • Set realistic and appropriate behavioral goals for your family instead of focusing on numbers.  We all know how difficult it can be to lose weight. Successful behavioral change is associated with a greater focus on healthy behaviors rather than numbers of pounds lost.  Here are a few examples of behavioral goals the whole family can tackle together:
    • Eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages
    • Engaging in 30-60 minutes of rigorous physical activity daily
    • Eating more fruits and vegetables
    • Replacing refined carbohydrates with whole grain foods
  • Be your child’s role model for healthy habits that last a lifetime. Talk to your children about the importance of eating well and being active, but put your words into action as a family to make these habits become second nature. If you eat well, exercise regularly, and incorporate healthy habits into your family's daily life, you're modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids that will last.
  • Be aware of your child’s feelings. Weight can be a sensitive issue, especially in the context of childhood obesity. Focusing solely on the number on the scale will probably lead to feelings of shame in the child and frustration for the parents. Frustration concerning a child's excess weight or lack of weight loss can sometimes translate into criticism and negative comments directed toward the child. Significant harm to your child's mental health and motivation to become healthier or lose weight can result from these types of negative comments.

In addition, Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese often experience ongoing weight-based teasing and bullying in school. If you are concerned that your child, or any child, may be the target of teasing or bullying because of his or her weight, it is important to take steps to intervene and protect children from additional victimization.

  • Provide positive reinforcement. As parents, you need to understand the importance of providing ongoing positive reinforcement for improvements in your child's health behaviors. One of the most effective and basic forms of positive reinforcement is verbal praise. Praise for healthy choices and behaviors will influence your child to increase or continue these actions. The use of rewards such as allowing your child to plan a family activity or sleepover with a friend, can also be utilized.  However, using food as a reward is not recommended.

Most of all, let your kids know you love them and that you want to help them be happy and healthy - no matter what their weight.

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