A Family Solution to Childhood Obesity

avoiding childhood obesity: the family that exercises together stays thin togetherIf your child is overweight or obese, it’s not just your child’s problem but your whole family’s. There are many reasons a child develops a weight problem, but genetics and family environment definitely plays a factor. In fact, if a child has one parent who is obese, that child has a 50 percent chance of also being obese; the risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are obese.
 
How can you help decrease your child’s risk of developing a weight problem? First, you should always consult a doctor to rule out medical issues that might be related to your child’s weight gain. Your doctor can also advise you on improving your family’s eating habits and increasing your physical activity. 

The key to helping your child beat obesity is to develop healthier habits for your whole family. Your child will not succeed at losing weight if he is munching carrot sticks while everyone else slurps chocolate milk shakes! In addition, change your habits slowly so that everyone has time to adjust to the new routines. Specific areas to focus on include better eating habits and more physical activity, as the only way to lose weight is to reduce the number of calories eaten and to increase physical activity. 

Better eating habits 

To help your family develop better eating habits, follow these tips: 
  • Plan your meals in advance and make better food selections with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural foods.
  • Avoid junk food and processed foods.
  • Eat at home instead of stopping at fast food restaurants.
  • Make meals a family activity. Eat together at the table, rather than around the television. Work on eating more slowly.
  • Serve smaller portions. At home, eat off a small plate rather than a large dinner plate. At restaurants, plan to bring home half of your meal for another time.
  • Know what your child eats at school and friends’ houses. Talk about making healthy choices.
  • Do not use food as a reward for good behavior.
  • Limit snacking, especially snacking in front of the TV.
  • Teach your children to eat only when they’re hungry, not because they’re bored, lonely, etc.
  • Don’t require your children to clean their plates. If they are full, let them stop eating.
  • Don’t completely eliminate all sweets and snacks from your children’s diets. Let them have the occasional treat so they don’t binge on forbidden foods.
  • Take your children with you when you go grocery shopping so they can learn how to make good food choices
  • Encourage children to eat breakfast every day.
  • Limit sugary beverages. 

Increased physical activity

Children and teens can spend hours sitting in front of a TV, computer, and video game. The statistics are scary: Kids younger than 8 spend an average of 2.5 hours watching TV or playing video games every day, while kids 8 and up spend 4.5 hours in front of a screen. And you can’t rely on physical education (PE) classes at school to give your children the exercise they need, as many schools are cutting down the length of PE classes and even on recess.
 
To help increase your family’s level of physical activity, 
  • Set a good example by being physically active yourself. Take a bike ride, go to the tennis courts, or enjoy an evening walk together as a family.
  • Limit your child’s overall screen time.
  • Don’t let your children have televisions in their bedrooms.
  • Choose active video games that get your children moving. Newer games let players dance, bowl, play tennis, and even hula hoop.
  • Encourage children to be physically active every day, whether through an organized sports team, a trip to the park, a walk around the block, or playing in the yard. 

Weight problems can be hard to fix, but by partnering with your child, your whole family will enjoy a healthier life.

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