13 Smart (and Sensitive) Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Their Weight

Addressing weight with your child is a sensitive matter—you want them to be healthy, but also want them to accept their body. Here's how to walk the fine line.

Focus on health, not weight

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 40 years, hitting one in five school-aged children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Does obesity prevention begin with the bottle?) Excess weight can increase a child's risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer, says Maryam Kebbe, a researcher on children with obesity at the University of Alberta in Canada. At the same time, eating disorders and body positivity have become important topics for today's youth. So if your child is overweight, how can you address it with them? First, focus on health, not weight. "It's a common mistake to focus on the weight itself—this is usually counterproductive," says Elizabeth Shepard, MD, pediatrician, nutrition, and obesity specialist at Stanford Children's Health. "The focus should be on action, i.e. incorporating lifestyle changes that lead to the desired outcome of a healthier weight." For example, try talking about the amazing things healthy foods can do for the body, like give you energy to run, jump, and play—so when you start serving them, there'll be a positive association.

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