5 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 I’ve learned 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 walk.

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 eaters.

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 extra calories.

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 them.

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.

Cynthia Stamper Graff is the author of Lean for Life: Phase One—Weight 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!