Weight loss coaching for families with overweight children is, unfortunately, probably going to get more and more common. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 48% of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese and the number has increased drastically over the past two decades.
Negative Health Outcomes Associated With Excess Weight In Children And Adolescents
The physical health problems in kids who could benefit from weight loss coaching are pretty much the same as the ones that show up in adults. Some are obvious, like orthopedic problems, skin problems and asthma, and some may not be so obvious, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Emotional problems include low self esteem, negative body image and depression. Socially, these young people are often stigmatized, teased, bullied, discriminated against and socially excluded, often leading to poor academic performance and various types of self destructive behavior like drinking, drugs and smoking. So how can you best coach these children and families?
Weight Loss Coaching Is A Family Affair
1. Focus on the family and not just the child. It’s usually mom or dad who does the cooking and shopping. And parents model eating behavior for their kids. Get everyone involved in planning, shopping, and cooking wherever possible.
2. Keep cultural norms in mind. You probably won’t have long-term success if you try to get an Italian family to give up pasta.
3. Take the focus off American popular stereotypes. Talk about the family getting healthier, having more energy to do better at work or school, and living longer, not about beauty and being skinny. And in weight loss coaching, like any other coaching, be sure to avoid any judgment from you, the coach.
4. Encourage eating smarter rather than eating less—a whole bowl of luscious fresh berries and a small scoop of frozen yoghurt instead of a piece of pie, for instance.
5. Encourage a small change approach. One week switch from white rice to brown rice. The next week, add a salad first course to dinner and serve smaller portions of starch.
6. Encourage exercise but put it in terms of improved stamina, more social interactions and more opportunities to be outside in the fresh air. Put it in positive terms rather than making it sound like punishment.
7. Don’t dictate a particular kind of exercise. Work with the family to find types of exercise that appeal. Maybe they would enjoy getting on a basketball court together or taking a family walk after dinner every night. Or maybe mom wants to do yoga and the child wants to swim. It doesn’t matter so long as they are moving.
Weight loss coaching is probably going to go on gaining in importance for some time to come. Parents don’t want to see their children suffer and may come to you as their last hope. As a coach, use your skills to help the adults explore their beliefs and expectations around food and weight. Use the tips to influence both parents and children so they can successfully change their habits to weight less and be healthier permanently.
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Dorine G Kramer
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach