If you look around the kitchen table one evening and realize that your whole family needs to lose weight, you aren’t alone. The 2015 report released from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation indicates that 69 percent of adults and 32 percent of adolescents and young children are overweight or obese. It’s not fun for you to be overweight and it certainly isn’t fun for your kids. A survey of overweight teens by researcher Rebecca Puhl found that 64 percent reported being teased or bullied because of their weight. If you have come to the point where you are ready to do something about your family’s weight, let me encourage you to start doing something right away. Don’t wait for it to get worse.
Assess the problem.
For many parents, this is the hardest part. It’s easy to know if you are overweight, but it’s harder to know if your children are. In fact, researchers have discovered that about half of parents have a hard time determining whether their child is overweight or not. If you are not sure, ask your child’s pediatrician for her opinion. Once you know for sure if all or some of your children are overweight, write down each person’s weight in a notebook. Keep it private to avoid making your children or other family members feel uncomfortable.
Diagnose the causes.
When you are talking with your child’s pediatrician, ask her whether there could be any medical reason for your child’s weight problem. Do the same for yourself when meeting with your personal physician. If there is not, take a look at how your family’s lifestyle may be contributing to the weight problem in your family.
Ask yourself these 10 questions:
- Do you eat out more than once a week?
- Does your family rely mainly on processed foods for meals and snacks?
- How often do you or your children exercise?
- When did the problem start?
- How much time do you or the children spend in front of the television?
- Is there stress in your family that leads people to overweight?
- Is there a family history of obesity?
- Do all of you know what a healthy diet looks like?
- Are you all eating portion sizes that are larger than needed?
- Do you limit the amount of sugary beverages your family drinks?
Once you’ve honestly answered all the questions, identify the ones that are making it hard for your family to get to a healthy weight. Some common ones are not enough exercise, eating out too frequently, drinking lots of sugary beverages, and watching too much television.
Format a family strategy.
As a mom to seven children, I know firsthand how important it is to get the family to agree to a plan of action if I’m trying to develop a new family routine. Sit down with your older family members and discuss the issue openly. Chances are your older children already know if their weight is an issue and will want to have input on family changes. Take your list of likely culprits you wrote down from the previous section and develop a strategy for each problem. For example, if you know eating out is one of the root causes of your family’s problems, designate certain nights for eating out and commit to eating at home more often. Stop purchasing sugary beverages, agree on a total number of hours for watching television for each family member, and look for ways to be more active together. Tackling your family’s weight problem isn’t easy, but the good news is you are not alone. Together you can face the problem, make positive changes, and move forward together feeling healthier and eating better.