Simple Truths That Parents of
Overweight Kids Should Know
By Cynthia Stamper Graff
President and CEO, Lindora, Inc.
Author of Lean for Life and BodyPride
I’ve never met a parent who didn’t
want the best for his or her children. As parents,
we want our kids to be healthy and happy. But over
the years, I’ve met many parents who felt
powerless to motivate their kids to lose weight
and become healthier.
Here are five simple truths
over many years of interacting with parents whose
children have successfully lost weight and kept
it off. I offer them with the hope they will
help you inspire positive changes in the lives
of the kids you love.
1. Kids learn what they live.
Do you set a healthy example for the kids in
your life? One of the greatest gifts we can give
our children is to be a healthy role model. I
know that my 12-year-old daughter pays much more
attention to what I do than what I tell her to
do. Kids are quick to zero in on any contradiction
between our words and our actions. If a parent
smokes or is overweight, for example, it's unlikely
they'll have a lot of credibility when they warn
their kids about the dangers of smoking or obesity.
If we want to make a positive difference in the
health of those we care about, especially our
kids, it's essential for each of us to walk the
I remember one night when
my 12-year-old daughter suggested we get up
a half-hour early the following morning to
go jogging. After an especially demanding day,
the idea of waking up even earlier than we
normally do didn’t sound very appealing.
When I hesitated, she said: “But you always
tell me how important exercise is, and that’s
the one time in the day when we can be sure we
can do it together.”
She was right. And with that
simple observation, she reminded me that my
actions speak louder than my words. If I want
to set a good example, I need to be a good
example. It’s not about
telling others what to do, but rather about modeling
positive behavior. Each and every one of us is
a role model to someone. When we choose to be
a positive role model, they benefit—and
so do we.
2. A healthy breakfast matters.
What do you and your kids eat for breakfast?
Your answer may matter more than you know. Did
you know that kids who begin the day with a breakfast
low in carbohydrates are better able to control
their caloric intake for the rest of the day?
One study gave 12 overweight boys either instant
oatmeal or a vegetable omelet and fruit for both
breakfast and lunch. For the rest of the day
the boys ate whatever they wanted. During the
five hours after lunch, the boys who ate oatmeal
consumed 81 percent more calories than the omelet
There's growing evidence that refined carbohydrates,
such as those found in white bread, donuts, bagels
and cereals, seem to fill us up but actually
make us hungrier later on. So if you want to
feel fuller longer, add protein to your breakfast.
3. The best way to influence what your kids
eat is also one of the best for your family.
Gathering as a family for
an evening meal isn’t
only a great way to stay connected. It’s
also an opportunity to help our kids develop
healthy eating habits. A recent study shows that
teenagers who regularly eat dinner with their
parents are more likely to eat a healthy diet
than those who don’t. They were also 20%
more likely than their peers to eat fruits, vegetables
and dairy foods. Unfortunately, too many kids
are eating too many meals on their own. In fact,
thirty percent of the teenagers interviewed said
they ate fewer than three evening meals per week
with a parent present. Is your child one of them?
4. What you eat matters, but how much you eat
can matter even more.
In this era of super-sized meals, our kids
have been conditioned to believe that more
is better. Original Coke® came in a 7-ounce
bottle. And today a large fast food soft drink
is 44 ounces and 500 calories. A typical restaurant
plate 20 years ago was 10 inches. Today, it's
12 inches. Supersizing a fast food meal can
add more than 1,000 calories! It would take
most people nearly four hours to walk off those
In a recent survey, 67 percent said they eat
everything on their plates, no matter how big
the plate is. At one Italian restaurant chain,
one plate of spaghetti and meatballs is seven
servings of grain, three servings of meat and
more calories than most bodies need for an entire
day. We need to pay attention not only to what we're eating but how much of it we eat.
5. If your child’s
weight troubles you, you can be sure it troubles
One in seven American children
is overweight or obese—and the price they pay is high.
It’s no secret that excess weight is harmful
to the physical health of our kids, but there’s
now growing evidence that obesity takes a serious
psychological toll as well. A study in the Journal
of the American Medical Association reveals a
disturbing degree of despair among obese children.
One hundred and six obese kids between the ages
of five and 18 rated such things as their ability
to walk more than a block, play sports, sleep
well, and get along with others. Their quality
of life scores were substantially lower than
those of normal weight kids, and were similar
to scores of pediatric cancer patients on chemotherapy.
One of the greatest gifts
we can give our children, in addition being
a healthy role model, is to provide a safe,
positive, loving home environment. I’ve talked with many parents who admit
that, in their frustration, they’ve teased,
scolding or humiliated their kids about their
weight problem. If they’re being teased
at home, just imagine what they’re subjected
to at school. Kids need a place that feels safe
and supportive, and that place is home.
Stamper Graff is the author of Lean for Life:
Loss and bodyPride. She is president and CEO
of Lindora, California's number one medical
weight control program. To learn more about
Lindora, visit www.lindora.com or call 1-800-LINDORA.
SPECIAL OFFER: Would you
like a FREE copy of bodyPride: An Action Plan
for Teens Seeking Self-Esteem & Building
Better Bodies, by Cynthia Stamper Graff? The
first 50 readers of this column who call 1-800-LINDORA
and request their copy of bodyPRIDE will receive
one absolutely free!