Saloni*, a successful 28-year-old media professional, gained weight due to a dramatic lifestyle change when she was 8. Though she's healthy and happy now, scratch the surface and the scars remain. "My dad would sing Meri bhains ko danda kyon mara to me. It became the family joke. I guess it was their attempt at negative motivation, but I hated it."
Along with being teased by classmates and pressure from media, the last thing children need is to feel uncomfortable at home. So, along with the diet-exercise regime we put them on, our attitude and the way we handle our children's weight problem is key—even if it embarrasses us. "Discipline and culture at home plays a major role in treating childhood obesity," says Dr Shobha Shashidhara, a Bangalore-based child psychologist. "Continuous support is key to helping them solve the fitness jigsaw puzzle."
Here's how we can motivate our children to lose those few extra kilos.
Say it right
A good start is half the battle won. Convey the right message with the right game plan to motivate your child. Making children feel fat and ugly would impact their psychology more than it would dent the scales. Focus on the solution, instead of the problem. Keep telling your child how kids can lose weight faster and much more easily than adults, thanks to their metabolic system. When a child feels upbeat about doing something, the chances of success are higher.
It isn't SUCH a big deal
Sure, weight loss is important and needs to be done. But don't let it overshadow everything else about the child. The way we recognise every dimension of our personality, a child needs to see himself as more than just an overweight person.
Over-ambitious goals are almost always destined to make you give up halfway. Break the task down into bite-sized chunks. Don't think of the 20 kilos that need to be lost in all, think of the 2 kilos that you can help them lose every month. Besides, if a child loses heart and quits, it can be a herculean task to start the program all over again.
"You are not alone"
When Rohan*, 9, was diagnosed with diabetes and had to give up sweets altogether, so did the rest of the Mukherjee* household. "There was no temptation staring him in the face all the time. Plus, he felt the support of the whole family when he changed his lifestyle," says his mum.
Adopt the same approach towards weight-loss. A program best yields results when the children feel that they are not alone—the diet-exercise is a family affair, as fitness is a way of life that everyone' is trying to achieve.
Note: The younger your child is, the easier it will be for him to lose weight. The body's metabolism slows down with age.