I get many patients with small children who ask me: what is a good diet for overweight children? My answer is quite straightforward: the best diet for overweight children is not a restrictive diet, but rather to let them eat! It may seem shocking, but it’s very true.
We’ve talked a lot about this, but it’s always worth remembering. When you lose a lot of weight quickly, your brain understands that you’re going through a risky situation.
So, what does it do?
It defends itself, by increasing your appetite and stocking up on fat. So after a restrictive diet, you tend to gain weight again. This is especially true for children because they’re growing and have a greater appetite.
When children go through a restrictive regime, this can cause even more negative effects, such as further increasing their appetite, hidden eating or even eating disorders.
If you have small children and want the whole family to have a healthy and sustainable weight, you should first calm your anxiety and understand that rapid changes are not healthy or sustainable.
A Safe and healthy diet for overweight children!
Let’s start with the basics: I’m against weight loss diets! If you live with children, it’s especially important to have a good routine, eat well during main meals, choose good quality food and have a varied and tasty menu. Setting a good example is crucial so that the next generation is healthy and, more than that, has a good relationship with food.
Consider that you’re responsible for setting routines and providing quality meals, but children are the owners of their hunger. It is your duty to respect that will, which means that it is they who decide how much food to eat at meal time.
Let’s also go back to cooking! A survey that studied about 100,000 children suggests that home-based family meals imply a lower risk of obesity in children. So a family who eat and cook together benefit from better health.
No one here is saying that you need to become a chef. Pay attention to food quality and try to prepare simple meals!
The kitchen is a wonderful environment for people to strengthen their bonds. Remember what you liked to eat as a child and recreate the dish. Go to the market with your children and involve them in fresh, colorful and fragrant product choices that motivate conscious eating.
7 Tips: A Diet For Overweight Children
- Serve home cooked meals;
- Let the children eat as much as they want and repeat if they wish;
- Sit with the children during meals and eat with them;
- Help children recognize the signs of hunger and fullness (ask: Have you had enough lunch? Or do you want some more?)
- Don’t be restrictive, but do not give them incentives to consume more either;
- Set a balanced diet example;
- Pay attention to the balance and the variety of foods and encourage them to taste new things
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But this diet usually involves changing habits, and that’s the trickiest part. We’re talking about a process that changes the whole family’s relationship with food, which also helps prevent eating disorders.
An obese 15 year old came to my office. He had grown a lot in a few years (6’1’) and had gained a lot of weight (he was over 220 lb). When we talked, he told me that he’d already had a diet with a nutritionist and that it hadn’t worked. I asked him why. He became a little bit sad and after a few minutes he said, “I was doing it right for about a month, after that I ate a lot, everything that I saw in front of me.”
I looked at him and said, “It’s not your fault! Very restrictive diets do this, especially in growing teenagers! Let’s work together to improve what you eat, without dieting, without prohibiting eating.”
We combined strategies to increase food quality on a day-to-day basis and, at the end of the consultation, I talked to his parents. “The only thing I’m going to ask you to do is have dinner at night and stop eating quick snacks outside the house in the afternoon or evening.” I explained, “I want your son to eat FOOD at night! This will be good for the whole family.”
This brought about a huge change in the life of the boy and his brothers. The house became more peaceful at night. Everyone benefited by being closer around the table, and in their health too! The boy came out of obesity, is no longer overweight and has not returned so far! All this by living a normal teenage life and still eating fast food with friends once in awhile.
Of course it wasn’t just dinner, we had started a behavior modification and a reorganization of his meals during the day, combining better choices. But dinner helped a lot! For the rest of his life he has learned to eat everything without prohibition and restraint, by respecting his own hunger. I love it!
Want to succeed too? I’m against weight loss diets. Actually, I’m in favor of changes in your relationship with food. Embark on the Sophie Effect and give your whole family a higher quality of life.
Now that you understand more about my ideas for a diet for overweight children, take time to read some other articles that I’ve created.