Everyone feels anxious and excited about the first day of school, but overweight kids who feel stigmatized and/or who didn’t lose the weight they’d hoped over the summer can feel more dread than most. There’s a lot that parents can do, however, to get their overweight child or teen off to a confident, happy start. And back-to-school momentum provides a great opportunity to establish healthy routines for your family to last throughout the year. Here are 7 ideas to get you started!
Plus-Sized Shopping Savvy: It’s worth driving the extra distance or paying a little more to find trendy clothes that fit and flatter your child. Confidence matters: think of how your teen would feel on the first day of school wearing a swank top and well-fitting jeans versus baggy pants and an oversized tee. Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, and Wal-Mart all carry plus-sized kids, tweens, and teens. Torrid is the #1 teen-shopping store for plus-sizes up to 5X. For more plus-size style strategies for teen girls, both the Curvy Nerd and stylist Janet Woods have great advice.
Cut out the Tags: don’t let a number define your child or become fodder for snarky comments. Snip out the size tags on your kids’ new clothes.
BYO Lunch: School cafeterias are trying to improve their offerings, but as “Two Angry Moms” Amy Kalafa explains in her new book Lunch Wars, too many kids are still heaping chicken nuggets, pizza, soda, and French fries on their trays. The healthiest lunch is usually the homemade one. So get inspired – together! Shop with younger kids for a lunchbox they love and attractive containers, or, for older kids, see if they prefer retro-popular brown paper bags. Kids can be self-conscious about lunch – anything brought from home can stand out. So consult with your kids about what’s cool beforehand (strong odors are a no-no). And boredom is another peril, so brainstorm together a list of healthy lunch ideas to avoid getting stuck in a PBJ rut. And check out Ten Easy Lunchbox Ideas for Teens On the Go.
Upgrade Your Snacks: the food industry spends 4 billion a year convincing your kids that “snack” means something salty-greasy-or-sweet that comes out of a crinkly bag. But snacks can be nutritional powerhouses that give your child a steady source of energy in the long hours between lunch and dinner. Instead of relying solely upon carb-heavy chips and pretzels, make healthy proteins like grilled chicken strips, turkey slices, low-fat dairy, hard-boiled eggs, nuts and nut butters, bean dips, or hummus a regular snack choice when they come off the bus. [And get your kids involved in prep! Snack Girl’s biggest tip for parents wrangling with picky eaters is to “let them make it themselves.” She even got her kids to try – and like! -- kale-smoothies by letting them push the blender button.] For more ideas: Ten After-School Snacks (You Might Not Have Thought Of).
Commit to Family Fitness: a lot of overweight kids and teens shy away from the team sports that keep a lot of kids fit. If your child doesn’t care for team sports, however, don’t let fitness fall off the radar (And psst, two gym classes — or less, at some schools — doesn’t cut it.) Be proactive: talk together about why fitness is a priority for everybody in the family. Don’t single anyone out. Brainstorm ideas – martial arts, a dance class, a family membership at a local gym, exercise videos? –and map out the possible based on everyone’s schedules. And don’t forget the small stuff: walking the dog for only 30 minutes a day can add up to a 10-pound a year weight loss, all other things being equal. For exercise-averse teens, consider splurging on a session or two with a personal trainer. The cost might be worth it to show your child that you take their health seriously and to get them started on a trainer-approved routine at home or at the gym. And check out Ten Gifts to Get Your Family Moving.
Undercover Confidence: maybe this isn’t on your back-to-school shopping list yet, but if you have a plus-sized teen girl, consider taking her for an expert fitting at a boutique bra shop like Intimacy. And while you gasp at the pricetag — an average of $100 per bra (plus special washing powder, yeah, stay with me) — consider this. Standard bras tend to compress large chests and lean on thick, matronly straps (which often pinch or bulge in the back), whereas a quality bra is built on an around-the-chest band that supports and lifts for a more pert and shapely look. The straps are pretty if they’re exposed (as they often are with today’s styles). fitsmi.com has a great Curvy Girl’s Guide to Bras and Panties that can help give your daughter the confidence and know-how to shop for the right stuff.
Don’t underestimate this confidence booster! It can start a positive-feedback loop that is priceless. The Curvy Nerd blogger swears that she felt so glamorous in her new Intimacy bra that she started “strutting around” and proceeded to lose five pounds because she felt thinner. If you don’t have an Intimacy store near you, try Nordstroms (they do professional fittings) or search for where brands like Prima Donna, Goddess, and Forever New are sold. For a good sports bra, try Moving Comfort brand.
Take a Stand Against Weight Stigma: you may think your kids attend the best school in the country. But trust us, weight stigma is everywhere, and your child has felt its effects for years even if they don’t complain. What can you do? Raise awareness! Watch the terrific short videos on weight stigma on Yale University’s Rudd Center’s website, www.yaleruddcenter.org, and share them with your school’s principal and the PTO/PTA. Talk to your child about weight stigma and what to look out for. And be quick to contact your child’s teacher or principal if you suspect any bullying or bias because of your child’s weight. It can really make a difference for your child – and for everyone else, too.
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