Stay away from juices. And make sure the family exercises together; make it part of your daily routine to do something active. Try to incorporate it early in the day, so you don’t feel like you’re catching up to do it. It’s pretty easy in the summer– it can be as simple as a family walk or a family bike ride. That’s what we’ve been trying to do lately. And always allow at least one “down day,” when if they don’t feel like doing it they don’t have to. Don’t push them.
I have two things that I would recommend. The first one we discovered early on, because the first time we came to the program was one week before Halloween. We live in a big neighborhood, so a lot of candy comes out on Halloween. What we did was we traded in a certain number of pieces of candy for something else, like a prize. For instance, thirty pieces of candy would allow our daughter to get a CD that she wanted. But we tried not to make it all material; a lot of the prizes were time with mom or time with dad. She wanted to spend time shooting hoops with her father, so that was worth 10 pieces of candy. We also went to the movies together, just the two of us– a mom and daughter night at the movies. And we went hiking and collected pine cones for Christmas ornaments. We did things like that, so that there were some activity based rewards rather than all material rewards.
The second thing that was hard was that she’s a great protein eater and loves her carbs, but she doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables. So our big thing was making a chart, and we set up a prize as our goal. What she chose was a basket for her bike, so that at the beach she could put her towel and things in it and ride around. We thought that was a great prize. She’s tried about six vegetables and likes four of them, so we have gotten her eating things that she hasn’t eaten since she was a baby. We just try to do fun, activity based things, but we don’t hound her. If she doesn’t want to try the vegetable that night, then she doesn’t have to try it that night; it has been very much my daughter’s choice.
It’s really hard for children with weight issues, and basically I’ve learned not to bring the bad food into the house. If foods that are no good for them are out of the house, it’s less tempting.
I would recommend getting the children involved in cooking and food preparation, and letting them see that it’s not about weight in pounds. Also, I think a lot of times people reward with food, and that’s not good. We go to the dollar store or to a movie instead– something like that.
Initially I didn’t talk about my daughter’s weight with anyone because it was her business. Then as she became more comfortable and more vocal, she was the one to say things to people. At that point I felt more comfortable talking to good friends about it. I still don’t go around talking about her situation, where she is going and what she is doing with everybody. But I have friends whose children are in situations similar to my daughter’s, and I have recommended to them that they see a nutritionist. Not necessarily at the program we’re in, because you don’t need the whole program.
But a nutritionist is a good place to start so you can learn the really simple, little things you can change in your life. For instance, I think most of my daughter’s success is because of what she drinks; she drinks water and milk now, and she doesn’t drink juice anymore. I thought that giving her orange juice in the morning was a wonderful thing. But I learned that she should be drinking milk instead, and it made an immediate difference in her. I also used to pack her a juice box at lunch, but now she buys milk at school too. But I held off on talking about all of this until I knew she and I were both comfortable to a certain extent with sharing what we’re doing, because it’s her business and I wouldn’t ever want to violate her privacy.
Do it together
The more of it you can do together, the easier it’s going to be. And the more you can support your child, the more helpful it will be, even though you don’t want to on some days. Don’t let your own needs go, but try to be consistent with your child; I think that’s the best way to help. And don’t be afraid to talk to people. When we talk about it around other people, I often find that they know somebody who’s going through something similar, or they’re going through it themselves. And they look to you for help, which is a good feeling.
If you can, you should definitely talk to a nutritionist. Inform yourself about what is healthy and what is not, because I think a lot of people have the wrong ideas. Try to keep healthy food around and not junk food, because having junk in the house makes it much harder on the child and it’s not fair to them. Besides, it’s a good idea for the whole family to eat healthily. I carry a lot of guilt and I think it’s easier for me to say to somebody else, “Don’t do that” and “Don’t give up.” Weight loss plans can be very frustrating for you and for the child– it’s hard!
Dealing with guilt
The best advice is I have is that it’s not your fault. Being a Type I diabetic myself, I know that she was born with high insulin levels, and that that didn’t help her. I’ve always felt guilty, but that’s just how it was, and I’ve come to accept that. Don’t blame yourself, and if you need help– if you feel like you’re having a bad week or a bad month– don’t be afraid to call, because that’s what the clinicians are there for, and they’ve made that very clear. Don’t feel like you’re failing that week or failing that month just because you need extra help or you need new ideas.
I know that she does have bad days where she just wants to hang out and eat sugary stuff. Sometimes I allow her those days, because if I’m riding her it’s only going to turn around on me, and then we will both end up having an awful day. I think you have to take the lead from your child. If they’re having a bad day, then that’s definitely not the day that you want to go full force about staying on your diet and being active. So I take a step back on those days. Then, if my daughter is having a good day, those are the days we talk about her plan.
Look to as many sources as you can find to learn more about nutrition and exercise. There are gyms out there that are starting up for kids. I just happened to be talking to someone, and I found out that there’s one starting up in our hometown; my daughter can’t wait. There are so many sources out there for activities for kids. If you can’t go to a clinic, go to a local weight loss program so you know how to balance some things on your own. My experience with a program like that, combined with her clinician’s advice, helps the nutrition information make so much more sense. If you understand more about what’s in the makeup of food, it’ll help you make their diet better.