Kids are heavier today than ever before. Childhood obesity has increased from 7% in 1980 to 20.5% today (for kids aged 12-19).
The good news is that most children can slim down quickly if the right steps are taken. There are many interrelated reasons our kids, our pets, and we adults are gaining weight, but we can break the cycle with a few changes.
Get started by being positive and loving.
There’s no need to shame your kid about his weight; he knows. Kids shouldn’t think of themselves as overweight or having some kind of personal failing. It’s really not their fault. We want our kids to know that they’re capable of achieving and doing anything, and that healthy food is a way to break barriers. To help your child lose weight in a way that is frictionless and peaceful, try following these 7 steps:
- Change your thinking and habits first. As the adult, you choose the food and set the schedule for yourself and your kids. You must accept that certain foods make us and our kids heavier. You must encourage and participate in vigorous outdoor play. You have to commit to eating and living as healthy as possible.
- Don’t mention weight, weight loss, or diet. Don’t put your family into a dramatic “weight-loss” mode. Instead, make silent but powerful changes to the schedule and to the grocery list. Add daily walks into the schedule and replace processed foods with whole fruits and vegetables. Ideally, a child will achieve a healthy weight by eating healthy food, and only healthy food. Throw out the snacks and soda. Throw out the processed meats. Your kids don’t need to know about this; just do it. There should be no contracts, agreements, or fights here.
- Emphasize fitness over sports. Fitness is different from sports. Sports are seasonal, usually team-based, and vary widely in their ability to keep people healthy. Baseball doesn’t offer the same workout as basketball. While sports are great, kids should develop a sustainable at-home fitness regimen they love and can do year round. Climbing trees, vigorous outdoor play, and bike riding all count. Home workouts like Power 20 are fine for kids too, but are a poor substitute for wrestling a neighbor. That said, exercise doesn’t have to be entertaining or social; just like brushing our teeth and bathing, it’s something that we do every day to keep our bodies healthy.
- Feed them mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
Adults thrive when their diet is centered around plants, and growing children are no different. Children eating mostly plants can and do grow up to be tall, intelligent, and healthy. In fact, we’ve known for 30 years that vegan kids test smarter than omnivore kids. In this report, vegan kids are not only leaner, but they also have an average IQ that’s 16 points higher than their peers. Check out this page for what to eat and what to avoid.
- Dramatically reduce the family’s meat consumption. The more meat people (including children) consume, the heavier and potentially sicker they will be. Most chicken, beef, and fish is farmed in industrial farms and are treated with antibiotics to make the animals grow faster. 97% of meat in western countries is grown in non-organic, industrial settings. Many believe these antibiotics are responsible for rapid weight gain in humans. Chicken in particular is linked to weight gain. The chart below shows a stepwise reduction in weight and type 2 diabetes associated with eating less meat.
- Stop feeding them cow’s milk. Cow’s milk can make our kids sick. Up to 75% of chronic constipation in children is a result of a milk allergy. Milk is calf-growth fluid; everything about it is designed to make a baby cow grow to over 400 pounds, fast. It increases the risk of type 1 diabetes. It causes intestinal bleeding in 40% of infants. It is linked to prostate cancer and weight gain. Instead of feeding them a product that can make them sick and fat, try these plant-based milk alternatives.
- Dramatically reduce their egg consumption. Despite all the industry misinformation about eggs being healthy, eggs have been repeatedly implicated in heart disease. They are high in calories, cholesterol and fat. Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the heart vessels) begins in childhood, and eggs can speed the process. Eggs are especially insidious because they’re ingredients in so many products.
Do these rules sound crazy? Not according to nutritionists and doctors:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree: Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers. (source)
Children raised on a plant-based diet get more of the nutrients their bodies need than omnivores do, but they may need to supplement vitamin B-12 and D. These are simple problems to solve, though, since many plant-based foods are fortified with these, and supplements are widely available.
Even if your child is an over-eater, this plan requires no portion control. They can eat as much as they want, so long as they eat whole food that’s plant based.