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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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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.

Parents and kids can share responsibility for which healthy foods are staples in the pantry. Keeping healthy food options within easy reach is a key to overcoming childhood obesity. Ask your kids to commit to eating those healthy foods when they feel hungry. Involve your child in planning meals, and take him to the grocery store with you to pick out healthy foods. It is also a great idea to let your child help prepare healthy meals.

Commit to eat at least one meal together, every day, with the TV, phones, and computers turned off. Studies show that when families eat meals together, kids tend to eat healthier and are less likely to be overweight.

Van Beek says she has seen families put one child on a diet while parents and other siblings continue to eat the way they always have. "Changing meals only for an overweight child increases the child’s feelings of isolation and shame," she says, "and encourages the child to sneak food behind the parents' backs."

Whether only one child or the whole family has weight issues, everyone benefits from healthy eating and routine exercise.

6. Don't Let Your Kid's Weight Define Her Beauty

Media images hold up an image of beauty most of us can only gaze at from afar. A survey conducted by researchers at Harvard University and London School of Economics found that only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. The survey, commissioned by Dove (the soap and beauty products maker), uncovers an impossibly narrow beauty standard that leaves most people on the sidelines.

What does this mean for an overweight child? Although not feeling beautiful seems to be a shared human condition, that fact doesn't help boost self-esteem. Women who answered the survey said their looks play a big role in their feelings of confidence and well-being. They also expressed a wish to redefine beauty to include women of different sizes and ages, along with qualities such as being loved, being kind, and having dignity.

With this in mind, you can foster your child's self-esteem by helping her feel loved and beautiful. "For one thing, take the time to find clothes that look good on your child," says Kinlan. The clothes don't have to cost a lot, but they do need to fit well. "It's important for children to feel proud of how they look when they walk out of the house."


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