How to save your child from becoming overweight

How to save your child from becoming overweight

Does your child eat constantly? Could he or she possibly be hungry again? A review in the journal Appetite terms the condition as “eating in the absence of hunger” or EAH.

There are four factors that affect a child’s desire for overloading on sweets and snacks. They are food availability, parents’ feeding styles, a child’s genetic make-up and socioeconomics. And, because those factors can impact whether or not a child struggles with weight problems or obesity for a lifetime, parents should ask themselves these questions:

  1. Does your child have a poor sense of appetite? Is he or she really hungry, or do they just want to eat? “It is important to encourage your child to understand their body, hunger and cues that they are full,” says Dr. Matthew Smiley, pediatrician and medical director of the Healthy Active Living Program at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “Rather than telling them to eat more or less, parents might ask, ‘is your tummy telling you it’s full, or does it want more?’”
  2. Does your child know there will always be an opportunity to eat? Parents should help their children develop a healthy relationship with food at an early age. A consistent eating schedule (breakfast – morning snack – lunch – afternoon snack – dinner) early in life helps to teach children that there will always be a chance to eat.
  3. Does your child drink enough water and eat enough fiber? If your child has eaten a meal and is still hungry, encourage drinking a tall glass of water. Fiber also helps kids say full longer.
  4. Does your child eat too fast? Eating too fast can cause children to feel hunger immediately after a meal. Teach your child to chew each bite 10-12 times before swallowing.
  5. Is your child highly responsive to seeing food? If your child is permitted to have treats and sweets (1 or 2 per day), they will be less likely to see them as an object of desire.
  6. Is your child an emotional eater? Parents should encourage their kids to express their feelings and discourage “feeding the problem” for comfort.
  7. Does your child eat because they are bored? Keeping children active and busy reduces the chance that eating becomes an ongoing activity.

Dr. Smiley suggests that children should learn to set limits and self-regulate what goes into their mouths.

“If your child is always asking for second helpings, ask them to wait 20 or 30 minutes before eating any more. Often, the desire for “seconds” is due to the taste of the food or ‘psychological hunger’ and not actual ‘physical hunger.’ Waiting 20-30 minutes can make a difference.”

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree children need to be taught good eating habits and the need for daily exercise. These are lessons I failed to learn until I was in my 40s. Now, at 62, I maintain a very healthy weight and exercise daily. I question, however, your choice of words in this otherwise sensible article.

    Obesity is not something to be “saved” from. It’s not eternal damnation or a character flaw. Please don’t stigmatize the obese more than we already do in our society.

  2. Dominic Filippo July 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm · Reply

    This is why we cannot afford to lose physical education and health education at school.

  3. One problem. School lunch time doesn’t encourage thoughtful chewing/eating. Elementary, Middle, and High schools usually have time constraints. I have seen slow-eaters in my local elementary school evolve into fast eaters by the time they are ready to move on to middle school. It’s a shame that kids aren’t given the time to be conscientious chewers, but there is only so much time during a school day.

About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!