My 11-year-old son was a chubby baby and toddler, but now he is heading towards becoming an overweight youngster. He gets teased quite a bit about his weight; his teachers, too, join in sometimes. Most of my friends and family tend to laugh it off, saying he is just “healthy”. Nowadays he makes jokes about his own weight, which is something I am not comfortable with. How do I help him cope with the teasing, and at the same time get him into better shape? My husband thinks the teasing is okay and will prompt him do something about his weight.
Contrary to some perceptions that chubby children are cheerful and always clowning around, the fact is that obese kids lack self-esteem and are often socially awkward and maladjusted. They may make up for it with overeating, joking about their weight, or through aggression, but inside almost every overweight child is a vulnerable, hurt and unhappy person.
Say no: Control your sweet tooth
The words used to tease may change over the years — from “Tuntun” to “Motu” to “Tubby” to “Sumo” — but the fact remains that a fat child is often picked on and mocked mercilessly right through his or her school years.
While obesity in children has not reached epidemic proportions, as in the West, we do see an alarming rise in obesity and related disorders in the urban Indian child population. Recreation is often television and computer-dependent, while most commercially available snacks and fast food contribute hugely to obesity.
While this trend is unlikely to change in the near future, there is quite a lot that we can change in our lifestyles and food choices to prevent our kids from becoming overweight, undernourished and unhappy.
What can you do to reverse this situation with your child? For those who are grossly overweight, with a corresponding family history, doctors, dieticians and fitness experts may be the main recourse. For kids who are marginally overweight, making small but significant changes in eating habits, attitudes to food and other routines can make a difference:
# Avoid taunting, joking or teasing as a part of your strategy to get a child to exercise or eat less. It is always counterproductive, and they face enough of it from schoolmates
# Request (or insist) that teachers don’t refer to his weight
# Cut down on bakery products — bread, cakes, biscuits, confectionery and the like. Enjoy them once in a while, and look for wholewheat alternatives for everyday snacks
# Simply say no to aerated drinks. Do not stock them at home and at the most, allow one a week. Offer alternatives through summer, such as chaas, nimbu paani, coconut water, kokum sherbet, and other such choices.
# Take a family walk after dinner; if possible, walk the kids to school or part of the way.
# Insist on some outdoor games at least twice a week.
# Encourage kids to sit on the floor when they play board or card games, work at craft, drawing and the like.
# For weight loss, set small targets. Every time the child passes the milestone, reward him or her with a piece of clothing or some such thing that he can now get into. You will find that weight loss brings its own best rewards in terms of better self-esteem, better school performance and a happier disposition.
# Above all, don’t make his or her weight a “big family problem” to be discussed with anyone you meet or who drops by.
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