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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

Boosting Self-Esteem When Kids Are Worried About Their Weight continued...

Help young kids relate to their health in terms they can understand. While children between age 5 and 7 might not grasp the meaning of future health problems like high blood pressure, Tiongson says, they may see how a healthier body can make their life better right now. For example, being healthier may mean they can play longer at recess or have more energy at soccer practice.

Measure success in healthy changes, not numbers on the scale.

With very young children, it's important to focus on adopting new ways of doing things, rather than on weight loss. In fact, some experts recommend discouraging young kids from even weighing themselves. However, if your daughter is struggling with obesity after age 10, you may want to talk with her doctor about other ways to help.

"The goal should be healthy behaviors," Tiongson says. Positive changes might include watching less TV, getting more active play, cutting out sugary drinks, or eating more fruits and veggies. Changes such as these add up to noticeable health and fitness changes over time.

Be a good example.

Small kids are like sponges, says Elizabeth Ward, RD, a dietitian in Reading, Mass. They absorb everything around them. "Stop talking about your body image and other people's looks in front of them!" she says. When parents have a negative body image, kids pick up on that and may start to doubt their own.

You can also set a good example by eating better and getting more exercise yourself. While they may not choose the same activities as you, they can find healthy habits they enjoy when you lead the way. For example, you may decide getting fitter means jogging, but your child may love riding her bike or playing in the park. Either way, you both win by developing healthier habits.

Understand media influences.

Pay attention to the media messages that are aimed at young kids and help them identify when messages are negative and unhealthy. Also look at your own reactions to messages about attractiveness and self-worth and to terms like "fat" and "ugly." Do your kids hear you agreeing with the messages or using those words?

Reinforce your child's sense of self-worth.


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