Your ‘weight’ is not the only sign of a healthy body and mind

Hi, Dr Gary “Koala” Leong here again!

One thing that I feel very strongly about when dealing with my new clients and customers –– as I like to call my childhood patients and their families –– is to ask them about their ‘Why’? That is, why have they come to see me and why do they want to make any lifestyle changes, if any?

I do the same for the parents, and the answers are somewhat different, but often not too different. 

Can you guess what the usual answer is?

Question from parent and/or child: ‘Doctor Gary, please, I want to lose weight?’

Often the parent, who I try to talk to alone without the child or adolescent, says also, “I am really concerned about his/her mental health, and he (or she) being isolated from his friends and his past favourite active things he previously liked to do. It was after several episodes at school when he was bullied, or made to feel embarrassed about his being overweight, that led him to start refusing to go to sports practice or refuse to go to school on sports days. This just compounded his anxiety and led him to be more inactive playing on his video games and neglecting his homework, and gaining even more weight as he comfort-snacked!”  

Can you, as a parent, relate to this common story? Do you have an effective strategy to nip this type of negative, unhelpful, but understandable behaviour from your child?  

As a follow-up to the child or adolescent’s response to their answer “I want to lose weight”; very few children are able to articulate exactly the ‘why’ or ‘how’ this would be good for them. Most, if not all of them, simply see it as a way to stop to the bullying, as well as avoid the focus and attention that their being overweight puts on them when they have to go for PE lessons at school –– where they are sweating and panting to keep up, or when the weekly swim lesson comes and they have to show their body shape, which they may or may not feel ashamed or embarrassed about!

As a parent do you know something that still shocks me and was reinforced by my Web designer, Annette? As Annette explained to me recently, the key to a successful website is being able to attract the highest hits or visits by using keywords that parents (or children, for that matter) may use to find whatever they want to on the world wide web.

For a website like mine at, in which I wish to promote healthy behavioural change, by using the key words search ‘weight loss for kids’ leads to 10 or more hits or visits than if someone uses a keyboard search like ‘child health and wellbeing’!   

My Dr Koala light bulb conclusion moment is … More parents are interested in the outcome of their overweight child losing weight but not on how and what effect or message this conveys to that child?

What message as a parent do you think it communicates to your child?

Seriously, have you thought about it yourself in a quiet moment with your partner?  And this may reflect your own parent’s handling of your childhood concerns if you were an overweight child?

Yep, you guessed it –– losing weight is so important because you will be happier? You will not stand out in the crowd anymore and, therefore, not be bullied and called names?  You might be able to join a basketball or swim team again, as the coach will not ignore you?

OK, this may be all true to some extent; but, focusing on their weight loss as being the major goal, simply ignores the often-overlooked fact that if the mother AND father are not willing to address their own health problems –– including lifestyle reasons for their own health problems, including poor mental health and obesity –– the child is very unlikely to become healthier, more active and happier! 

In other words, as I talk about it to the kids I see (and their parents), while their weight can be one of many important outcomes, IT IS CERTAINLY NOT the only one!  What about if they are doing well at school with their learning?

Do they have good social relationships with supportive friends?

Are they contributing to the everyday management of their family’s household by doing chores and earning hard-earned pocket money?

Are they walking or bike-riding to and from school or on the weekends; if possible, with one or both parents on a regular basis?

Are they participating in weekend sports activities and are BOTH parents supporting them in that regard, rather than making excuses that “Oh, they didn’t like doing that anymore?”

This is a complicated topic and one that cannot be addressed in a lone blog, but a conversation about this needs to be undertaken in the community and within every family.

For further support and information go to Dr Gary Leong’s Ride to Life book website at