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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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2. Identify what's triggering emotional eating. continued...

Talk with your overweight children to find out what's going on in their personal lives. Ask about school, friends, and general attitudes. Do they have a positive or negative view about the way life is going? Being aware of the underlying social and emotional issues will help you guide them to make better choices.

Sometimes, an outside perspective allows an "aha!" moment that lights the path for change. If you're having trouble controlling your emotional eating, don't be afraid to seek the help of a mental health professional. Although professional counseling or psychotherapy might not be comfortable for elementary school children, it can help you or older kids figure out what's motivating emotional eating and offer help for eating disorders.

3. Find satisfying alternatives.

Once you figure out why food makes you feel better, you can come up with alternative behaviors that can help you cope instead of emotional eating. Frustrated because you have no control over circumstances? Go for a walk on a path you choose. Hurt by a co-worker's mean comments? Take it out on a punching bag, or make a plan for how you're going to talk it out. Bored? Distract yourself by calling a friend or surfing the Internet.

Denying yourself all treats can lead to cravings and binge eating. Instead, allow yourself to have your favorite foods occasionally and in smaller portions. Limit the amount of chips or candy by putting a few in a small bowl instead of mindlessly eating them out of the bag.

Keeping the emphasis on fun and feeling good can make new, healthier habits easier to adopt. A study in a British health journal showed that teenagers were more likely to take a walk when told that it would make them feel good than when told it was the healthy thing to do. So when you're making alternative plans, choose something you'll view as pleasurable -- such as a quick bike ride or brisk walk after dinner, or an after-school game of hide-and-go-seek -- rather than a chore or punishment.


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