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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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4. Make Exercise Fun

Enjoying physical activity can help your child develop strong self-confidence and a positive body image. The problem is that many overweight kids hate team sports, like those played in gym classes or offered by community teams, because they get teased or can't keep up with other children.

To help prevent public humiliation from being the only feeling your child has about exercising, help her find activities that will build her self-esteem. You might start by taking a walk together each evening after dinner. "Start going for short walks and increase the distance over time," says Kinlan. "If your child can only make it for a block the first time out, that's OK. Sticking with it matters more than the distance you cover. Over time, your walks can get longer." Your child's weight will benefit as well.

Playing with kids with similar abilities -- or even pets -- may also provide opportunities for fun activity in a non-competitive and supportive environment. Consider tossing a ball, shooting baskets, or playing croquet or putt-putt golf. Try any fun activity, like just putting on some music for dancing, that will get your child moving and noticing how her body feels. She may even start to realize that everyone is not staring at her.

If you aren't active, you may have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to help your child. So it's just as important for you to set realistic, attainable goals, have fun, and build on success. Working together to find fun activities may help your family get healthier, move past old feelings of shame about childhood obesity, and build stronger bonds in general.

5. Be Careful About Food Rules

To help improve your child's weight and maintain his self-esteem at the same time, introduce new foods slowly and set eating goals that won't feel like a punishment. Many parents make the mistake of pushing too hard, too fast. Strict food rules tend to undermine self-esteem, especially in adolescent girls. Food rules also have a way of making kids crave the very foods you don't want them to eat.

 

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