Weight Loss and Children
With so many weight loss programmes available on the market, how do you decide which one is right for your child? Because each young person is different, in our experience it’s best to seek professional practitioner advice to gain long-term results. A practitioner of naturopathy/ homeopathy will choose an individual homeopathic medicine, make suggestions for dietary changes, lifestyle modifications and advice on any necessary vitamin or mineral supplements.
Childhood Overweight Problems and Obesity
Apparently, Australia and New Zealand now have one of the highest rates of childhood obesity of all the developed nations, with approximately 25% of children currently overweight or obese. If your child is overweight or obese it is not only their future health that we need to be concerned about but also the state of their current health. Especially their emotional health. How do they feel about their current weight? Are they being teased at school? Are there some activities your child would like to do if they physically could or if they had more energy?
Practical ways to help children lose weight
- Encourage outdoor activities – 30 minutes/day
- Avoid fruit juices and carbonated drinks
- Opt for plain water
- Encourage active chores at home
- Reduce screen time to no more than one hour a day. Change the password every night so that your child has to do an active chore or an outdoor activity before being given the new password
- Encourage family time activities
- Encourage a team sport or active hobby
- You may choose to include a freedom meal once a week
- Makes changes achievable, don’t change too much at once
- Don’t use food as rewards for any of the family
- Avoid hunger and poor food choices by having good quality snacks
- Get your child to eat a substantial meal before going out to an event or a party
- Carry healthy snack options for your child while out and about (e.g.nuts and vege sticks)
- There has been a link found between glue ear, recurrent ear infections and childhood obesity. Perhaps due to altered taste function leading to a craving for sweeter and saltier foods. So make sure to use homeopathic medicine to correct the ear problems to help directly with weightloss.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Overweight?
Apparently a lot of parents are getting so used to seeing overweight kids, they don’t recognise that their own children are obese. In 2004, a study from the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, revealed that three quarters of parents failed to recognise their child was overweight. 33 percent of mums and 57 percent of dads considered their child’s weight to be ‘about right’ when, in fact, they were clinically obese. They no longer recognise a healthy body shape for a child. At the same time, it should also be said that one in ten parents expressed some concern about their child being underweight when they were actually a normal, healthy weight.
At first, parents often blame puppy fat and it is sometimes hard to gauge whether kids have crossed the line into long-term weight gain. One clue is that even if your child is a bit chubby, they shouldn’t have rolls of flab on their arms, back or tummy. It’s true children do put on more fat when they’re about to go through a growth spurt. But as a rule, that’s more common with boys when they’re about to produce the hormones that turn fat into muscle.
Ask your doctor to weigh your child as part of a general check-up rather than weigh them yourself, as children can feel judged by their parents. If your child comes up as overweight, or is already in the obese range, you need to take action now. Despite parents’ fears, talking to kids about weight does not sentence them to an eating disorder. We need to be careful how we say it, at the same time children should know life isn’t simple and obesity is an issue they have to address.
Why Are Our Children Overwieght?
It’s pretty straight forward really! Quite simply, many children do little exercise and eat a diet that’s packed with junk food. But once the child is already overweight it’s not that simple or straightforward to make a change (or many changes). The problems start early in life. A survey by Mother & Baby magazine in 2004 revealed that nine out of 10 toddlers eat junk food, with chocolate, biscuits, crisps, fish fingers, chips, cake and chicken nuggets appearing in their top 10 favourite foods.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg – children’s diets generally get worse as they get older and more food is eaten outside the home. Unsurprisingly, most health experts agree one of the most important factors in the fight against childhood obesity is to encourage healthy eating habits from an early age.
Lack of Sleep and Overweight Children
Researchers in Canada, studied the sleeping habits and weights of children aged between five and 10 years. They discovered those who slept for 10 hours or less every night were three and a half times more likely to be overweight than those who had at least 12 hours sleep every night. Even more surprisingly, the scientists found that a lack of sleep was an even bigger risk factor for overweight and obesity than the amount of time spent in front of the TV or computer.
Staying up late often goes hand in hand with snacking – usually on sugary and fatty foods and drinks – which may help to explain why fewer hours in bed results in extra inches around the waistline.
Tired children are more likely to struggle getting out of bed in the morning and skip breakfast due to a lack of time. This means they’re more likely to overcompensate later in the morning by eating fatty and sugary snacks, which provide more calories than a normal breakfast would have.
Meanwhile, further research has suggested that a lack of sleep may affect the production of two hormones that regulate appetite so that tired children are more likely to feel hungry – and therefore eat. Sleep deprivation appears to be linked to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which reduces hunger, and higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which makes us feel hungry.
Portion Size – Weight Loss and Children
Young children can find it as difficult as adults to regulate how much they eat in the food-filled society we live in, according to a study from the University of Cornell, USA. The researchers found that by far the most powerful predictor of how much food a young child eats is how much is put on their plate. Earlier studies had suggested that young children (pre-school age in this case) were naturally much better at regulating their appetite and food intake and ate pretty much to satisfy their hunger.
Dr David Levitsky who led the research said “We found that the more children are served, the more they eat, regardless of what they have eaten or had to drink previously in the day, including how big their breakfast was. We also found that the more snacks children are offered, the greater their daily food and calorie intake.” He added “these findings suggest that the onus for controlling young children’s weight must rest in the hands of parents and other caregivers.
It has often been said that young children are better than adults at automatically regulating how much they eat. But this belief was based on studies that were carried out in more controlled laboratory settings, not at home and at play centres, like this study. This meant that the children were more influenced by the factors that can make weight control tricky for everyone, such as big portion sizes, easy access to high calorie snacks and habit eating.
How Can I talk To My Child About being Overweight?
Under 9 years old – At this age, parents decide what kids eat so changes need to be made to the whole family eating habits. Start talking about making healthy choices as a part of everyday family life.
Age 10 to 12 – at this stage they’re more aware of body shape than we realise. The first question would be if anyone has teased them about anything at school. If so, acknowledge it by saying something like: ‘That hurts’. If your child has been bullied about their size, don’t deny there’s a problem. Parents first response is often to say there’s nothing wrong. But that just confuses the child. When you talk to your child about weight, choose your moment. Look for neutral times, like supermarket trips or the walk to school. Make it clear it is not their fault. It’s not a weakness, they’re not stupid and they haven’t failed. Make sure your child knows you love and support them and you want to help them to help themselves.
Age 12 and over – Be careful not to link being ‘thin’ with being successful and attractive. Make sure they understand that weight is simply a health issue. In our world healthy choices are difficult for everyone. Avoid words like ‘lazy’ or ‘greedy’ and ‘diet’- it’s better to talk about longer-term lifestyle changes than a quick-fix diet. It’s not about controlling what they eat. Point out the benefits of physical health, such as having more energy. It’s about making them part of the journey. Create an environment where a teenager can succeed in losing weight.
Unconventional View of Nutrition
The practice of Homeopathy views the eating, digestive and emotional issues of the child as one problem. Homeopathic remedies work on the whole body, so they are successfully used to automatically improve digestion in order for vitamins and minerals to be absorbed more efficiently. A child receiving a homeopathic remedy at the same time as introducing dietary changes will find their hot chips and junk cravings easier to deal with and parents will find the child or teenager is more compliant with introduced changes. When the homeopathic remedy has made some adjustments the parents find it easier to steer the child away from the old pattern of eating/ lack of exercise/ lack of motivation.
If dietary changes are begun along with a homeopathic remedy, they are easier to maintain in the long term, since the remedy itself will be helping to change habits and cravings.
DISCLAIMER In any long-term or chronic childhood illness, the advice of your medical healthcare professional should always be sought. When you decide to start putting into place some of these Practical Ways To Help Children With Weight Loss Including Homeopathy you are encouraged to ask many questions. Ask your healthcare professional about your child in a wholistic way to explore further your health management options.
Some thirty years later, Jacqui herself is a practicing Homeopath, Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Nutritionist and follows an integrated approach of Natural Medicine complimented by conventional medicine when necessary. The best of both worlds.
Jacqui’s clinical interests include general family health care (including pets), women’s health, stress related issues including anxiety & depression, and therapeutic support for immune related issues.
Jacqui understands the pressures of juggling a busy life and making well informed healthy food choices for the family. As a naturopathic nutritionist, she can help remove the guess work with simple suggestions that won’t break the bank or cause mutiny at the table. Often, all it takes is a little tweaking of food and lifestyle to achieve weight goals or improve the family’s health.
Jacqui views Homeopathy as the medicine for the 21st century. Homeopathy is able to re-balance the mind & body, improve vitality while stimulating the immune system and resolving both chronic health issues and short term acute symptoms. Dare to be Brave and take your health care to the next level.