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If my child is overweight, what is the most effective way for me to help him diet and exercise?

This is a big question and often takes a lot of brainstorming with your doctor and/or nutritionist to come up with solutions that really work for you. There are, however, some principles that apply to almost everyone. Here are some suggestions that are based on good science and really work!

Make only small changes!
One of the most tempting things to do when people are dieting is to completely overhaul their diet. This tends to work for a few days or weeks but trying to do too much at one time tends to make people “fall off the wagon.” Small changes, done two to three weeks apart, tend to have more of a lasting impact. For example, if you drink three sodas per day, instead of trying to cut soda out entirely, try to cut down to two per day. Instead of trying to run three miles, taking a 30-minute walk daily may be more helpful. Once a small change becomes a habit, then pick something else small to work on. After a few months, you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come. A little success can be very motivating to add even more changes down the road!

Avoid shame
Feeling bad about your food choices only makes things worse. If you or your child cheated and got donuts or ate too much cake at a birthday party, shrug it off and keep going! Every meal is an opportunity to start again.

Work in activity wherever you can
It may seem silly but opting to take the stairs or park at the back of the parking lot can add a lot of physical activity throughout your day. Encourage your kids to have dance parties in their rooms once a day! Take walks. Go to parks. Be creative with your kids about how they can work in more activity. You don’t need to do insanity DVDs to lose weight. Again, small changes add up over time.

Celebrate food
This may seem like odd advice, but eating should be a fun adventure. Try new foods with your family. Try new ethnic foods and different recipes. Boil an artichoke. Have family meals without the TV on as often as possible. (Actually, having family meals has been shown to reduce weight and risk-taking behavior independent of what you serve to eat.) When you develop a taste for many different kinds of foods, it tends to be a lot easier to make healthy choices.

Play sports
Getting your child involved in outdoor activities is incredibly helpful. Sports teach discipline and build in plenty of physical activity. Get involved with whatever your child plays and help them practice by going out and kicking the soccer ball or practicing your golf swing alongside of them. As with food, celebrate sports and try new things together.

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