Tips for Helping the Overweight Child

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In the past, it was a concern for most parents to ensure their child was getting enough to eat. In these modern times, however, the concern has shifted. Parents now worry that their child may be eating too much of what is unhealthy. Dr. Denise Lamothe provides expert advice for parents who are concerned for their children.


  • tell your child they look fat or will get fat.
  • comment about their weight.
  • embarrass, humiliate or shame them.
  • put your child on a diet – this will ultimately cause weight gain.
  • focus on appearances.
  • use food to reward or punish your child.


  • Assure them that you love them for who they are, not for their body size. Focus on feeling as (physically and emotionally) healthy, strong and balanced as possible.
  • Reward with things like a hug, a little later bedtime or a special outing. Punishments (better explained as consequences of the child’s behavior) include early bedtimes, no television or loss of a privilege.
  • Be aware that food and mood are intertwined. If a child eats more sugars and refined carbohydrates and less protein, they can be depressed, lethargic and angry. Everyday stressors can be overwhelming for them.
  • Know that a bagel, pretzel or bag of popcorn is only sugar in disguise. White flour products, pasta, corn and starchy vegetables metabolize immediately into sugar.
  • Know that we need healthy fats every day (olive oil, a bit of real butter). These will not add pounds. Without some healthy fat, the body will think it is starving and crave more carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Make sure they are eating protein thrice a day and some carbohydrates, like fruits and whole grains, to see positive changes in their behaviors.  List proteins that your child enjoys, to consult when you’re in a hurry.
  • Know that soft drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine, to which children are very sensitive. Encourage drinking plenty of water (or juice mixed with water).  Buy juices with no sugar added.
  • Recognize hunger is sometimes thirst in disguise.  Once your child has had a healthy drink (preferably water) and is hydrated, they may not be tempted to grab snacks.
  • Introduce changes gradually and don’t get into power struggles about it. Your child needs to know that you have their best interests at heart. Unless your child has a serious medical condition, it won’t hurt to miss a meal once in a while.
  • Offer fast foods and sugar-filled treats sparingly.  Limit pizza (and sprinkle it with ground meat, tofu or poultry), chips, fries, burgers, ice cream, bagels and candy (and remember that the “healthy” alternatives, like granola bars are loaded with sugar).
  • Have truly healthy alternatives on hand. Be creative.  Make trail mix from dried fruits and nuts and toss in a handful of M&Ms for appeal.
  • Limit TV, computer and video game time. This forces kids to use their imaginations and they may choose to do more physical things. This also enhances self-esteem.
  • Encourage your child to try all sorts of physical activities such as a family walk or swim.  Let friends come along.  Model an active lifestyle.
  • Talk with your children. Discuss how you’re doing and ask them how they are doing. Listen. Tell them you love them and want all of you to be as healthy as possible.
  • Point out television commercials that are made to trick children into eating more fast foods and sugary foods.
  • Be sure that your child gets plenty of rest. A set bedtime is essential.  Quiet time and/or a warm bath or shower close to bedtime can help.  Do not allow eating for at least an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Notice how your child is acting and how he or she appears to be feeling.  See if what you are observing matches what they are telling you.  Let them know you are noticing and that you are always there for them.

What is most important is:

  • Letting your children know you care.
  • Feeding them in the healthiest ways you can.
  • Paying attention to them.
  • Asking them how they feel and validating them.
  • Listening to what they have to say.
  • Respecting them.
  • Setting clear, sensible boundaries.
  • Outlining clear expectations (and reasonable consequences when you must).
  • Giving freely of your love.

You are the parent and you decide.  At first a child may not like you for setting limits.  Later they will appreciate your effort (maybe not until they are parents themselves).

And, finally, please remember that you cannot expect yourself to do all these things perfectly every time and you cannot expect your children to behave perfectly all the time, either. Be gentle with your child and be gentle with yourself.

Contributor Info:

Dr. Denise Lamothe is an emotional eating expert, international professional speaker, psychologist and doctor of holistic health. She is the author of The Taming of the Chew: A Holistic Guide to Stopping Compulsive Eating (Penguin 2002) and has been noted in many publications, including “O” the Oprah Magazine. She has appeared widely on television and radio and has spoken across the country and in Canada. She is located in Exeter NH and can be reached at 603-778-4814 or 603-493-6043. or

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One Comment for “Tips for Helping the Overweight Child”

  • Amanda SlapczynskiNo Gravatar

    I think alot of parents should read this. It would help alot.

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