My child is ‘overweight’. What should I do?

My child is overweight.  What should I do?… A fitness professional’s response

Of course we worry about children. We want to protect and nurture them, give them the best possible start to life, and instil in them values and habits that will serve them well.

In western society, our culture is one of deeply ingrained size discrimination.

We’re bombarded with images via television, magazines and social media of what the current so-called perfect body looks like. This one body type is heralded as the epitome of health, fitness, attractiveness, happiness, admiration and success. We get trapped into thinking that if only we could have that body, we’d get everything we ever wanted, that all our life problems would be solved.

Untying ourselves from that trap is bloody hard. I know so many of our Moderation Movement followers are currently wrestling with it now. Health and fitness doesn’t come in just one body size. The evidence is clear that we can be fit and healthy in large bodies. To get out of this trap we also need to know that we are all valuable human beings regardless of appearance. We don’t base our love for our siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends on what they look like or what size they are. Just like they love you for who you are not what weight you are!

We need to be very careful that in our effort to protect and nurture children we’re not succumbing to that size discrimination that’s so prevalent in our world.

When their bodies change as they age, and we suddenly don’t recognise them, is our view of them being coloured by the years of body shaming we’ve seen around us or even endured ourselves?

Children do not need you to make judgements on their weight or appearance.

Our culture is cruelly geared to give them such unhelpful feedback Every Single Day.

Instead teach them that their value is not tied to their appearance.

That their unique blend of character traits make them irreplaceable and unique (And that every human being is special). Help them highlight their strengths and enjoy practicing and celebrating those strengths.  Tell them often that mistakes and flaws are part of being human, and they serve as valuable lessons rather than reasons why we’re less lovable.

Refrain from criticising your own or other’s bodies.

Remind them that just like dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so do humans, and that’s perfectly ok.  Wouldn’t the world be boring if every dog looked the same?

Listen to them.

Encourage them to define their own life values and act in accordance with them. Talk with them about your values and role model how you live a life aligned with them. Encourage them to seek out others with the same values as their own.

Support their dreams and cultivate their passions.

Tell them over and over that they CAN. Tell them that their gender, appearance and weight does not define them or their abilities. Tell her that her opinion matters and she’s not on this earth to be looked at.  Tell him it’s ok to express his emotions and reveal vulnerability.  Share your own sense of purpose often, and explain they’ll find their own and it doesn’t have to look the same as anyone else’s.  Tell them it’s also ok to search and wander and not know what their sense of purpose is.

Help them find physical activity they enjoy because it makes them feel great and helps them function well.

Be a role model by participating in movement you enjoy. Make it clear that wellness is not a size or weight, but instead how our bodies and minds function and feel.

Provide a wide range of foods at home.

Refrain from giving food a moral value of “good” or “bad” and encourage them to listen to their appetite and trust their own body.

Respect them and teach them to respect themselves and others.

Love them.

Don’t police their bodies.

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