The pre-teen, or tween, years of a girl’s life are a mass of changing hormones and the fight for more independence. This, according to research, is one of the factors contributing to weight gain around the world.
A study done in 2001 revealed that girls between the ages of 9 and 12 were more likely to pick up weight, and unfortunately modern social trends are only aggravating the situation.
The contributing factors and culprits are:
- Not enough activity
- Poor dietary habits
Pre-teen girls are especially sensitive to gaining weight at this age and not dealing with it effectively could lead to them becoming overweight adults and risking high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and developing diabetes.
As a parent it’s tricky to deal with this subject and the last thing you want to do is isolate your child or make them feel bad about themselves. So what can you do?
Instead of a strict diet and forcing them to do certain weight loss programs, it is far better to encourage weight loss in a subtle way so as not to make a big deal out of losing weight. According to various paediatric institutions, the best way to deal with weight issues is to focus on the family and leading a healthy lifestyle. This is hard though when your 11 year old wants to go and get takeaways and ice cream with her friends, but actually equipping your child with the correct eating habits and knowledge will be a great start. If they understand about food and about healthy eating, it becomes second nature.
Teach your daughter about what good foods she should be eating. It is recommended to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day along with lots of protein like chicken, fish, lean red meat and low fat cheese. Dairy plays an important role in weight control, as do healthy whole grains that fill you up, including brown bread, brown rice and whole grain pasta. By making sure that your child eats well-balanced, healthy meals containing these foods, it is okay for them to go out and have a treat every so often.
If bad eating becomes a regular occurrence, however, this will still cause them to gain weight, especially now as their hormones are changing. Being a good parent is all about setting boundaries and while you should respect their need for more independence, you should not lose control altogether. Insist on family meal times together and only allow the trips to the takeaway place or ice cream parlour once in a while.
Aside from healthy eating, activity is another problem among tweens. They feel that their time would be far better spent sitting on the phone to their friends, or texting, rather than exercising. Once again, do not set out an -exercise routine for them. Rather encourage activity by organising fun days out. Enrol them in dance classes, insist that they take an extra mural sport at school, and assign them the duty of walking the dog for pocket money (if they are old enough and you feel that they are safe where you live).
Remember that organising fun outings will also be a good way for you to get some exercise and bond with your daughter.
Parents set the example for their kids and if you are overweight, do not exercise and have poor eating habits, why should your daughter? Be an example and show them how much fun and cool it is to be healthy. Here are some excellent, affordable family activities that you can do with your tween:
- Shopping at the mall (the walking for miles and trying on clothes will work wonders, as long as you don’t stop for milkshakes, or tea and cake!)
- Going to the beach (the beach is ideal for taking a bat and ball to play games and swimming in the sea is also great exercise – take some messy watermelon to munch on and lots of water, and you have a very healthy day out)
- Go hiking (hiking trails, especially those up mountains, are perfect for the family to spend time together and get some cardio work in too)
- Invest in a Wii gaming console (it sounds counterproductive to get a video game, but make sure you get the Wii Fit game, as well as any of the Wii sports games. This will get your daughter off her feet and moving around in no time, and is great fun for the whole family)
These are just some examples, but there are plenty of other activities that you can encourage your daughter to do every day, and if you stick to healthy eating and limit TV time, pre-teen weight issues will be a thing of the past.