How Can A Kid / Child Lose Weight?

As a parent, you often ask yourself how you can help your child when there is a problem. Sometimes it even makes you feel guilty. Do you feel this way about your child's weight? Then I would like to help you here.

For your better understanding, I am giving you headlines on this page, so if you don't like to read about biological processes, you can skip those. Feel free to read as much or as little as you need.

There are some similarities between overweight in children and in adults, and some differences. I am going to address these things to you and give you important information on how your child can become healthier again.

First the best news: You are doing the right thing by recognizing the problem very early on. Your child can still have a long and healthy life because of your early actions.

And now, let's go straight to the most important things you need to know.

Acknowledge how the situation emerged

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First of all, you need to become aware of what has happened. Your child is overweight. You did not want this to happen. Your child did not want this to happen. It is not your child's fault, and you also don't need to beat yourself up. Why not? Because we live in a world where fast food companies get more attention than doctors and advertising wins over knowledge.

There is another thing you need to acknowledge: You are responsible for your child's health. Your child does not know how important health is, it doesn't even understand what healthy and unhealthy is. It also doesn't know why it's bad to eat what tastes so good. And that's the next point.

Why children love sugar

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Everyone loves sugar, not only children. You find it in everything that's sweet, including chocolate. There is a natural reason why sugar tastes so good: it's about the function it serves.

Sugar is a very reliable source of energy for the human body. The body finds it easiest to use. It's also ready very quickly. In ancient times, before people were able to produce bread or noodles, they were more than happy to find a tree with fruits to harvest. These opportunities were rare, and survival was difficult. It was a good thing to have sugar in fruits.

But that was then, and this is now. We are no longer consuming sugar for what is was intended for: Survival.

Children are naturally eager to consume sugar. They, too, want to get as much energy as possible for "survival" situations. But there are no tigers to run from!

The more sugar a person gets, the worse the addiction gets. Sugar affects the blood sugar level, and high peaks (from chocolate, for example) cause extreme lows afterwards. So the first thing you need to do is to help your child get off the sugar addiction.

What else causes overweight

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At this point, you might think to yourself:"But my child doesn't get excessive amounts of sugar". Well, if it's not only a lack of physical activity, the main reasons for overweight  usually correspond to sugar in some way. Even bread, noodles, rice and potatoes contain a lot of sugars in the form of carbohydrates (carbs).

Carbs are complex structures of sugars that transform into less complex structures in your body. The elemental stage then is sugar. You will realise this if you take a piece of bread in your mouth and leave it there. The piece of bread will slowly begin to taste sweet. Try it out!

So now we know that not only chocolate contains sugar, but also noodles, potatoes, bread and rice. What else causes overweigth? How about fat, you might ask. Yes, fat plays some role there, too. But it's something not too judge too quickly.

The role of fat as a food source

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If you ate foods that consisted of no carbs at all, but a lot of fat, it's quite unlikely that someone would be overweight because of that. It is true that fat, as a food source, contains a lot of energy in the form of calories. But it's not the fat itself that makes someone chubby.

The big problem is when fat and carbs go together! This is often the case in unhealthy foods. French fries and ketchup are an example.

The sugar will lead to an overactivity of the pancreas. That's the organ that releases insulin to stabilize the blood sugar level. If sugar is consumed, there is way too much of it in the blood, and the body has to do something. At the same time, this process also tells cells in the body to bring all the fat into the fat cells. So the fat from the french fries flies into the fat cells. Wow, that was a lot of words starting with "f".

I need to adress one last thing about fats: There are some very, very good and healthy fats. The easy rule of thumb is: Fat from fish, nuts and olive oil is really great and you should not cut down on this as a food source!

So what can I do now?

Yes, let's jump into action now!

There are different things you have to consider at the same time. The most basic thing to go back to: Your child is a child, not a small-sized adult. So you always have to assist your child since he or she doesn't know why the diet is necessary.

Change the eating habits of your family

Are the children buying the groceries or you?

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This sounds like a stupid question, but who is actually buying the food? Even if you go shopping with your kids, it's still you who has to pay, right? So avoid the big mistakes:

#1 Letting your children decide for you

Don't let children put stuff into your shopping cart, don't let them beg you, and most of all, don't let them blackmail you! If they make a big scene and throw themselves on the ground crying, you must be strong and not step back from your decision. If you need to, you can totally end the shopping trip and head back home.

#2 Don't tease your children with candy

If you constantly buy chocolates, of course they are going to want more. Even I can't resist chocolate. If chocolate is in my house, I will eat it. But if chocolate is not even in the house and I'd have to go out and buy it first, well... then I'd rather lie on the sofa instead. So make sure that your children actually get a chance to resist sweet foods.

Team work as support

Putting only one child on a diet with everyone else at the table eating as usual feels like a punishment to the child. Everyone should try to eat healthier. So make this a team effort. It will strengthen the bond between all family members, and it's good to support the one who needs to lose weight the most.

Cut down on carbs - gradually

This is where we put theory into practice. You are going to make some changes. The recipes you use should be based on a low carb diet. There are many recipes on the internet and I also post some of them on my blog.

Let's say you and your children usually eat something like steak and noodles with a sauce. Or chicken with rice and a sauce. Now change this a little. Instead of rice, noodles, bread or potatoes, you offer green beans. They work well in that respect. Or maybe you make noodles out of zucchinis by slicing them.

Don't make a big deal out of it, though! Don't go like "ohhh well, I certainly hope that you like this, because I'm not sure, it's vegetables and I never tried it". No. Just go with it and don't even mention it. It's just you bringing a little variety on the table so it's more interesting.

Then, set an example. Enjoy the food! Hmmmmmm! Tasty. Let the offspring know that this is some good food!

In the beginning of the diet, children will still crave for sugars. So what do you do? After the main meal (if the child did not protest), you can allow your child something sweet. In the first week or so, it might still a little chocolate. After that, you always offer a fruit after the main meal.

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This serves no less than three (!) purposes: First, you want to teach your child that even nature has sweet things to offer. Second, after a lunch meal, we all crave for at least something a little sweet, and third, these small and rare opportunities to eat something sweet will teach your child the true value of sweet foods - that they are for special occassions and not for wasting them.

Timing - when to eat, when not to eat

The times you eat are very important. This has to do with some biological processes. You can find out more about them in other entries on this blog. What matters is that the process of losing weight is some kind of "work" for the human body, and eating is interrupting that work. 

That's why it is usually best to have breaks of at least 4 hours in between meals. I know this is not always possible and I am not asking your family to always stick to this rule. But just take it as general guidance that there shouldn't be too many little snacks, cake etc. in between. You must be aware of everything your child eats. Even little cookies that are on the living room table must not be ignored.

Scheduling and planning the day

So how does a normal day look then? It's something you have to plan yourself. Some families have a working family member and another parent stays home with one or more children. Sometimes, both father and mother work. Other times, there is a single parent. All this affects eating habits.

If the child goes to a kindergarten or to school, then you only have limited influence over what happens there in regards to food. Maybe you can let your child take prepared food there, talk to the staff about food, or make sure that not too much pocket money is spent on the wrong things (depending on the situation).

It's also okay if there are times when the typical diet isn't working. You still have a good portion of the day when you can make an impact on the health of your child.

And what to drink?

Oh yes, let's not forget. If you carefully read the part about sugars, you might already know that this is where beverages come into play. Of course, soft drinks are not very good for a child, because they increase the craving for sugars, and wow, those soft drinks contain crazy amounts of sugar.

The best thing to drink is often water. But I know it's extremely hard to get a child to only drink water. Here are some things you can do:

-If your child likes soft drinks, offer mineral water mixed with self-made orange juice

-Throw a vitamin c or vitamin b pill into a glass of water, this will add taste and freshness to the drink. You can not overdose on those vitamins since the body knows how to regulate the vitamins, so no worries.

-Buy beverages with no sugar. But beware: They contain artifical sweeteners that can create craving, even though there is no sugar for the body to process. But it can work. Whether it works or not you can find out by observing if your child is unhappy and still craving sugar.

-Cool down your beverages in the fridge, it makes them taste more refreshing.

-Let your children take part in the process of mixing their own drinks

The psychological approach

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Now comes the part that is very important for parents because your child needs a healthy lifestyle but probably feels frustrated about it at some point.

As a parent, you need to help your child develop a good mindset to make the diet work. It's all about making him or her understand.

"Why can other kids eat that?"

At some point in time, your child will be invited to a birthday party or something similar. There will be lots of cakes, sweets and the like. It will be a huge drawback to the diet. Not because the child gains weight immediately - it doesn't. But because the craving will start again.

But you know what? Just let the child attend the party anyway. You can't control every aspect of your child's life, and childhood is still a time to have fun. So there should be some exceptions for sweet foods, too.

When your child is back home and starts complaining, communicate with your child about why a diet is helpful. Take into consideration the age of your child. If your child is old enough to understand romance, health problems of old people and the like, you can explain that the diet will make life better in the long run.

If the child is very young, you could explain with little puppets who mr. carb, mr. sugar and mr. protein are. Some of them are good guys, some of them are bad guys.

Be creative about it and seek the child's understanding. Make the diet something worth going for, something that is a good thing! And always go for the positive way instead of the threatening way.

The emotional approach

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A diet is not a punishment for a child, you need to let your child know and feel that. The emotional state of your child is of importance here.

When I talk about emotional state, I mean the general happiness. Feelings, emotions.

One thing to do is to support and never to put pressure on the child. You must also be on the child's side at all times. The diet, at no point in time, ever goes between you and the child. What this means is not that you give in to the child's wishes, but you also don't deprive your child of love because of diet-related problems.

Whatever happens, whatever what the other kids say, you are on your child's side! And you will work together to make things better!

The conclusion

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You now know why it's not enough to hide carrots in the noodles. You know the main reasons for overweight, you know why they exist, and you know that you have it in your hands to change the situation. Most of all, you know that a diet for a child is different from a grown-ups diet because of the emotional and psychological aspects to consider.

I would like to let you know as one last thing that I tried a lot of things to lose weight, even when I was younger. And I thought a lot of things were most important...the will to lose weight, the motivation, the right food.... but I only learned later that the most important thing is different. And this goes for parents even more. The most important thing is knowledge!

That's why I encourage you to keep reading. I want to offer you more on this blog, and out there you will find more information too. Please come back again.

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