Is this the question you have asked yourself? As parents we influence our children in so many ways – how they treat other people, the habits they develop for things like studying, and the lifestyles they learn to lead. I recently read a report published by the Yale Medical Group that confirms that obese parents are much more likely to raise obese children, who are then much more likely to develop into adults who struggle with obesity.

Parental Obesity Affects Children and Influences their Weight

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, children whose parents are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of becoming obese themselves. In fact, the main risk factor for childhood obesity is having a parent who is obese, and nearly 80% of obese 10- to 14-year-olds with one or more obese parents will also be obese as adults. While genetics do play a role in childhood obesity, if you are struggling with weight and you are a parent, the lifestyles in which you encourage your family will have a tremendous impact on the health of everyone in your family.

How Can I Raise Kids to be Healthy?

When it comes to weight, the adage of “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work for parents. We have to lead by example, even when we just want to grab those chips for a snack! As the mother of 4 kids I know how much attention children pay to every move we make, every word we say, and everything we eat (especially those teenagers!). If I reach for chocolate, my kids want chocolate. However, if I make myself a protein shake, my 13-year-old is right in line for his, complete with a serving of frozen fruits I throw in for flavor and nutrients. While I might be making this for me and to harness control of my own waistline, my son sees it as a cool, healthy drink he gets to have on a hot day.

How to start with yourselves and then give your kids the tools they need to become healthy

It is unrealistic to think that we as parents can lead unhealthy lifestyles, whether that comes in the form of bad eating habits, smoking, or risk-taking behaviors, and not have those decisions directly affect the health of our kids. We need to start with ourselves, and then give our kids the tools they need to become healthy individuals.

  • Avoid the traps of negative diets. When kids watch us “diet” – where we claim we can’t eat this or that because it isn’t on our diet, they learn that food is in control of us.
  • Be honest about your situation without scaring them or making them feel sorry for you. Let your kids know that weight is something with which you struggle, but that you are going to make efforts to live a healthier life. Your kids love you and want you to be healthy.
  • Do it as a family. Exercise and healthy foods are important for all families, no matter what numbers are on the scale. Make a commitment to exercise together as a family at least 3 evenings a week. My husband invites the kids to run with him in the evenings, and all 3 of my boys are training with him for various 5k and 10k races. I make a point each week to plan activities with the kids that will get us all moving together – hikes at a park, swimming at the beach, or even just backyard baseball.
  • Make one or two small changes every week. If you buy white grains, switch to wheat. If you drink 2% milk, switch to skim. Instead of watching television for 2 hours each evening, take on hour to do something as a family where you are not sitting (bowling, playing in the yard, walking, biking, etc.).
  • Don’t do it alone. Your children’s health and futures depend on your health today. Enlist the help and support of a physician, dietician, local gym, or another support system to help you reach your personal health goals.

Has your family recently changed to a healthier lifestyle? What did you do?

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