This month we are addressing a question from a dad, we’ll call him Bob. At a recent doctor’s appointment, Bob’s doctor noted that his son’s weight was above average and suggested that Bob help his son lose a few pounds by getting active and eating better. Bob wants to know how he can approach this conversation with his doctor and support his son’s health for years to come.
• Pushing back on advice from healthcare professionals can be awkward and challenging, but it is ok to ask the doctor to not talk about weight in front of his child, and instead have these conversations in private. He can also ask the doctor if there are any other concerns, such as abnormal lab tests, or if the concern is really just about his son’s weight.
• “Generally, since children are still growing, we recommend children actually not try to lose weight.” Children’s bodies are growing, and they are expected to change weight and size, particularly during puberty and pre-puberty, and often right before growth spurts. This is normal and expected. Additionally, attempts to control weight are associated with an increased risk of disordered eating. Dieting is also associated with an increased risk in weight cycling, weight stigma, and eating disorders.
• Instead of focusing on weight, focus on the health promoting activities.
• If you make changes, make these changes as a whole family. Singling out one family member can be really stigmatizing and isolating, and it indicates that their body is wrong or needs to be fixed. So, if these changes really are about health, everyone in the family can be doing it together.
• Find activities the whole family can enjoy together that is focused on enjoying the activity, not weight loss. This looks different for each family, and might include things like walks, bike rides, or an afternoon at the park. She also suggests that sometimes families need to get creative. If your kids are into specific things, like science, consider how you might incorporate that into the activity.
• If making food changes, focus on spending time together as a family in a low-pressure environment. Think about how to make food fun, such as picking out recipes or having his son help with food prep.
• It can be tough to know if you’re doing things “exactly right.” But she emphasizes that even making a few changes to the way you talk to your kids about food and body can have a lasting impact on your child’s physical and mental health. Keep trying! You’re doing great!