Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to Help an Eleven-Year-Old Girl with Weight Issues: Part I

At church the other day, I saw a two little girls sitting near each other who were both chubby. They both looked to be about 11 to 12 years old. They both had skinny siblings surrounding them. They both were facing years of struggle that I so wanted to take from them. I know that isn't the best parenting technique--children need to struggle and grow from their challenges. I just so wished that I could reach out and teach each of them and their families a few things so maybe, just maybe, these girls didn't have to struggle quite so much. 

I remember being eleven years old and chubby. I remember wishing desperately that this wasn't my challenge. Over the years, I've thought often about what I would do if I was the mother of preteen chubby girl. How would I help her? What would I do? What would I make sure I did NOT do?

I'm not sure that I know much about this topic but I certainly have a few ideas. I certainly have some experience living this reality but sometimes it almost makes me more shy about offering my opinion because I know how royally screwed up you can become from people interfering in the wrong way. 

Yet, I can't deny that I just wished I could help in some way. With what I know today, here's where I would begin when talking to each girl's mom and dad about what changes need to occur.

Family Eating: The first thing that must change is how the ENTIRE family is eating. If you want to guarantee failure in helping your daughter then single her out, tell her she has to eat differently, and then proceed to make "special" meals for her. Your girl will turn into an emotional secret eater with that kind of encouragement. Eating will become more powerful and more dangerous for her because now food will be her only solace as everyone gangs up on her and her "issue." Not the way to go, my friends. 

What needs to take place instead is a complete and utter overhaul of family meals as well as the pantry and refrigerator. Look to someone like Dr. Oz for inspiration. Remove all fake food from your house. Get rid of packaged products. Remove everything with high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil and white flour. That means out goes most of the cereal, all of the soda, and all those boxes of crackers and cookies that are taking up space in the pantry. You must return to real food, whole foods, pure foods. If your 11-year-old daughter is gaining weight like crazy then likely she is having severe hormonal issues as well as blood sugar problems as well as endocrine problems. Fake food, chemicals, additives and pure junk food is only exacerbating the problem--as well as her emotional state. 

Then family meals need to change as well. They need to primarily feature vegetables, whole grains and lean meats and good fats. Foods that are whole, sustaining, and fresh. If the food has been through any kind of processing then it is suspect. Yes, that means things like pasta and cereal and even breads. If the food hasn't been processed by your own hand then it shouldn't be at the dinner table. So, get cooking Mom and Dad. 

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities: Get her tested for food allergies and food sensitivities. Go to a doctor with medical and alternative health training and ask for an IgG food sensitivity test. This will help pinpoint the foods that are causing your daughter's body to react. Read some information from Dr. Hyman on this topic. Once you've barred high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and white flour from the house, the next main three culprits are likely dairy, wheat and corn. All three are highly processed and the most common allergens in our food system. Cut them out next. At least for two month to three months. Watch all of your children react to food that is real, whole and full of excellent nutrients. See what behavior problems, emotional issues, and attention disorders disappear from your home. 

Set an Example as a Parent by Actually NOT Eating Junk Food: This is where the rubber hits the roads in most families. Mom and Dad this is your family. You set it up, you buy the food, you set the example. If either of you are eating terrible food then you can guarantee that your child is going to eat it too. This can't just be mom's crusade for health or dad's push for family wellness, this has to be both parents eating good, whole foods that are nourishing and healthy and very, very yummy. 

If mommy has a secret candy stash or a daily Diet Coke habit, I can guarantee that every child knows about it. Those children will be craving sugar and treats and soda pop as well. They will soon develop their own secret candy stash or daily soda habit as well. But if mommy has rid herself of her own food cravings and is making a fruit smoothie every morning and eating a veggie omelette, then suddenly the kids will start wanting smoothies and eggs themselves. 

If daddy relishes eating vegetables every night at the dinner table then the children are going to pick up on that and start relishing vegetables too. But if daddy's plate mainly features meat and bread and he turns up his nose as the veggies are passed around then all the kiddies are going to follow right along and turn up their noses as well. Food, really, really good food will not make much progress in your household unless mom and dad learn how to welcome it whole-heartedly. 

So, Mom and Dad get eating and cooking food that is palatable, delicious and nourishing. 

That is all for now, folks. Take a minute to digest that information. I will share more ideas soon. 

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