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Fourth & final article in series on childhood obesity

January 8, 2011

Note: This is the final article in a four-part series on Childhood Obesity presented by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes are available for viewing on www.missionhealthyliving.org. This final article focuses on what parents and children can do to start to change their habits, lose weight and live healthier lives.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY: WHAT CAN PARENTS DO NOW

TO HELP THEIR CHILD FIGHT OBESITY?

By: Dr. Laurie Betts, Program Officer, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation

A recent White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, released some startling information—childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America and it is now considered a national health crisis. If your child is already overweight or on his or her way to becoming overweight, now is the time to take action. The effects obesity can have on your child’s emotional and physical health, both in the short- and long-term, can be devastating. Making changes in your child’s life that will affect his or her health and weight positively can be difficult, and at first appear overwhelming. You may not even know where to begin, but there are easy ways to take small steps that will equate to big changes in your child’s future.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a child being overweight, including frequently eating a high-calorie diet, not getting enough exercise, family history, psychological issues and family dynamics. In addition to these factors, there are definite warning signs you can watch for that could indicate your child is already overweight or on the path to becoming obese including weight gain, inactivity or lethargy, depression, meal skipping, obsessions with food and continual snacking.

Steps To Take

As a parent, you have the most influence over your child’s eating habits. One of the most important first steps you can take is to commit to change as a family. Embarking on this journey as a family will enable long-term success because what you do will become a way of life in your household and constantly be reinforced. Remember, parents help build and shape lifelong eating patterns and children are likely to model the food and meal rituals of their families.

First, if your eating habits are less than perfect, don’t stress—bad nutritional habits can be changed. It is important to set the example, however. Secondly, it is imperative that parents set down some rules in regard to how their children view food. Do not use food as a reward, punishment or as a way to handle emotions. Finally, you want to teach your child the importance of healthy eating both at mealtimes and at snack time. Teaching your child how to satisfy cravings with options that are low in fat and contain simple sugars—sugars that are found in fruit rather than sugary snacks—are lessons that will last a lifetime. Taking the time to talk with your family and then incorporating the benefits of eating better into your lives will also go a long way. Good rules to follow for nutritional eating include:

• Limit sodas or high-sugar drinks

• Eat more fruits and vegetables

• Increase physical activity

• Eat more protein, nuts and leaner meats

Other things you can do as a family to help correct or prevent obesity include:

– Make an appointment to see the family doctor or pediatrician to get additional up-to-date-advice

on fighting childhood obesity.

– Record what your child eats and drinks for a week to show the doctor.

– Check out websites that have nutritional and exercise information you can use like

www.mypyramid.gov, www.nourishinteractive.com, www.letsmove.gov, and

www.missionhealthyliving.org.

– Make wise choices and keep only healthy food in the house.

– Severely limit sweet and fattening snacks, desserts and beverages.

– Don’t use food as a reward or a punishment.

– Stop eating out at fast food restaurants.

– Eat together as a family as often as possible with the focus on conversation; take your time

at meals and make them a relaxed and close family time.

– Exercise with your kids on a regular basis.

– Restrict TV and recreational computer time to a maximum of two hours a day.

– Lead by example, adopt good eating habits and exercise regularly—together.

– Teach your children how to handle negative emotions without using food. For instance, if he or

she is upset suggest a walk, listening to music or have them draw or write about what they are

feeling.

Changing the way your child and your family thinks about food does not have to happen all at once. Make a list of goals you want to achieve as a family to get healthy and lose weight. Choose one or two goals each month to incorporate into your daily living. The most important part of setting these goals is to choose something small enough that you can commit and stick to it. Start slowly and don’t overwhelm yourself, but keep your commitments even when it’s not convenient. Over a matter of months, you will start to see results and start to feel great about what you are doing for yourself and your family.

To learn more about the warning signs, risk factors and solutions to childhood obesity, plan on attending the free seminar sponsored by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation on Thursday, January 13, 2011, 7:00-8:00 PM at the Pottstown Senior Center, 724 North Adams Street, Pottstown. Dr. Laurie Betts, Program Officer for the Foundation, will discuss the trends, causes and health implications of childhood obesity, and practical steps you can take to reverse or prevent this serious condition. You will also hear about local programs that can aid in the prevention of childhood obesity. To register, please call Rose Crews at 610-323-2006 x21 or email her at rosecrews@pottstownfoundation.org.

About the Series – Childhood Obesity This four-part article series was developed by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes featuring local experts can be found on http://www.missionhealthyliving.org. The first article discusses how childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. The second article focuses on the warning signs and risk factors of childhood obesity. The third article talks about what schools are doing across the nation, the state of Pennsylvania and in Greater Pottstown to combat childhood obesity.

About the Foundation The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit www.pottstownfoundation.org for more information about the Foundation. Discover Pottstown area’s new online community at www.missionhealthyliving.org to learn and share great information on how to lead a healthier life!

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