How To Protect Your Child’s Weight Problem

By Arlene Kahn Therapy • January 22nd, 2012
self-made picture of child who weighs somewher...
Obesity is a symptom trying to say something

As adult and childhood obesity increases in America, there has also been an explosion in weight-loss surgeries. As reported in the NY Times, January 7, 2012, there are presently about 220,000 operations a year–a sevenfold leap in a decade, costing more than $6 billion a year. The especially concerning part of this news is that there has been a push to perform these surgeries on the young. “Allergan, the maker of the popular Lap-Band, a surgically inserted silicone band which constricts the stomach, making the patient feel full quickly, is marketing it to patients as young as 14, four years younger than is now allowed. Hospitals across the country have opened bariatric centers for adolescents in recent years.”

Some doctors worry that young, overweight patients are still developing and lap-band surgery can have negative side effects later. In some cases, surgery is being performed on children as young as 12. But, the long term effectiveness of weight-loss surgery, especially stomach banding, is still in question.

Dr. Wendy M. Scinta, a family practitioner in Manlius, a suburb of Syracuse, specializes in pediatric weight loss. She was quoted in the NYTimes article saying “I think it’s pretty extreme to change the anatomy of a child when you haven’t even tackled the other elements.”

One of the other elements might be an approach to weight-loss that involves the whole family.  If the whole family is involved, then it doesn’t feel to the child or teenager that he or she is so alone with this problem.  Following, are some new ways to think about a family approach to weight loss for children and adolescents:

1.  It is well known that overeating, or eating compulsively is often an attempt to soothe feelings, sometimes stress and frustrations, sometimes even overwhelming positive feelings.  Each day presents emotions and feelings that can feel difficult or unmanageable.  It is an art to notice them in oneself or a child and then receive and reflect them for another family member.  Being able to find the “meaningful intent” in the feeling being expressed by a child (or an adult). is the vital part of this reflecting process.   When someone “gets it” there is often relief from the discomforting feeling.

2.  Finding ways as a family to have fun with food:  cooking, shopping, trying new and healthy recipes. Learning together about nutritional content, can take some of the sting out of the deprivation of  “dieting.”

3.  Exercising together:  playing, recreation, whether a ping pong table in the basement, or basketball hoop outside, just walking together can create a bond apart from food.

4.  A group for a child or teen that focuses on self-esteem, self-image and food concerns can be a wonderful place for sharing, bonding, strengthening one’s self esteem and create new friends, new perspectives and motivation to change.

In conclusion, before we mutilate our child’s bodies, lets protect their weight problem.  Disordered eating and consequent weight gain becomes a symptom that is trying to say something important.  Let’s try to listen to what it has to say and not just “shut it up” with surgery, or other drastic methods.  We all have an organic push for aliveness, health and realization of our potential.   Let’s give our kids a chance to grow in a natural, healthy way, by helping them get to know themselves and joining them on the path.

Your comments are welcome.    To learn more about weight, weight loss, food issues, self-esteem and all that’s tied up in our use of food, feel free to call and have a consultation.

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