Can my child self-monitor to lose weight?

Daniel Kiershenbaum, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help your child self-monitor and lose weight on their own
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Can my child self-monitor to lose weight?

One of the key behavioral goals for weight control is to self-monitor, keep track of 100% of the eating and your activities and so on. This is not something for little children. This is the kind of thing an 11-year-old can do who is motivated, who wants to change. And even some who are ambivalent about the change process can actually gear up for it if they find it useful. But if you're talking about a child who's 8, 7, they really can't do that. They can't self-monitor consistently, effectively. That is an expectation that's unwarranted for someone that young. But if a parent wants to get involved in the process, they can do it. They can keep track for their child, with their child of what they eat and what the child eats and help the child see that tracking and paying attention and keeping it real simple can make it real interesting and almost like a game for the child. So for example, focus on fat intake; that's only a small number if you're doing it right. So you're trying to get to 10, 15, maybe at the most 20 fat grams a day. And a child, a very young child, as long as the child can read, 7-years-old or beyond, they can understand the difference between 7 fat grams, 10 fat grams, and none. And so they can go to a Subway restaurant and look for chips, for example, and make a game out of that; find the chips that have the least amount of fat. I did that with my own daughter once when she was about 7-years old. She liked it; she thought it was fun. So you can do that and make it fun for the young child. But it's not that much fun; it's a serious goal, and that is to reduce the fat intake of potentially very overweight young people.

Daniel Kiershenbaum, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help your child self-monitor and lose weight on their own


Expert Bio

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Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, PhD

Weight Management Expert

Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, PhD, ABPP, is the President of Wellspring. He was Director of the Eating Disorders Program at Northwestern University Medical School, where he is Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Kirschenbaum is a Fellow and Diplomate in Clinical Health Psychology in the American Psychological Association and former president of its Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology. Dr. Kirschenbaum has provided invited addresses at many professional conferences world-wide, received numerous grants for research, and published 10 books and 150 journal articles on weight loss, sport psychology, and related topics. His books include: the first book published for professionals on the treatment of pediatric obesity - Treatment of Childhood and Adolescent ObesityWeight Loss Through PersistenceThe Sierras Weight Loss Solution for Teens and Kids (2007); and, The Wellspring Weight Loss Plan. Dr. Kirschenbaum’s research on sport psychology won the top prize for research on the mental game of golf from the World Scientific Congress on Golf (St. Andrews, Scotland) and Golf Magazine; in 2000, the American Council on Exercise and its Board of Directors unanimously endorsed his book, The 9 Truths About Weight Loss, as "the best book ever written for the public on how to lose weight and keep it off."

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