Monday, July 03, 2006

Kids and Weight Control: The Role Of Parents

Hello everyone, hope you are having a good holiday weekend. I know some of you may not read this till wednesday but it is somethign that is near and dear to my heart. The health and fitness of our children. As a single parent I am reminded that the health and fitness of my children is up to me, their parent. It is my job to see that they get healthy foods, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and end up as happy well adjusted adults. To me I feel that making sure they aren't overeating, eating because of boredom, or emotionally eating is a part of that. Insuring that my children get exercise of some form or fashion each day is important to their overall sense of well being as well. That is why the following article raises a mixture of emotions within me ranging from saddness to outright outrage.

Have a Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Kids and Weight Control: The Role Of Parents
by Jennifer Pitzi Hellwig, MS, RD

For parents of children with weight problems, it can be a confusing situation. Should you restrict their food or just leave well enough alone and hope they grow out of it? The key, say the experts, is to help your children adopt healthful habits that will stay with them through life.

A Growing Problem
Approximately 25% to 30% of U.S. children are overweight, and, according to government data, the prevalence of obesity among children and teens is growing.

Childhood weight problems often carry over into adulthood, and overweight adults are at greater risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Worse, conditions once associated only with adults, such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a major risk factor for stroke and heart attacks), are now increasingly being found in some children and adolescents.

Contributing Factors
Several factors may be to blame. In rare cases, a medical problem may be the cause. If you suspect your child has a weight problem or is developing one, take him to your pediatrician or family doctor for a full exam.

The most common factors in childhood obesity include the following:

Lack of exercise. Experts blame too much television, vomputer time, and video games, along with a decrease or complete elimination of physical education from many schools for the fact that many children simply do not get any daily exercise.

Consuming too many calories. Today's time-pressed families are relying more and more on convenience foods and fast foods, many of which are high in calories, especially from carbohydrates. High fat intake from burgers, fries, and pizza plays a role, but many kids are gulping down hundreds of calories a day in the form of high calorie sodas and sweetened juice drinks. "I've counseled kids who drink six to eight sodas or juice drinks per day," says Heidi Reichenberger, MS, RD, a Boston-based dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "That's almost 1000 calories from drinks alone." Over-large serving portions at both restaurants and at home have also surely played a role as well.

Family history/genetics. Research has shown that children with overweight parents and/or siblings are more likely to be overweight themselves. While genes may play a role, it may also be that parents pass on unhealthful behaviors and habits to their children.

Dos and Don'ts For Parents
The best advice for parents is to help your kids eat healthfully, be active, and build self-esteem.

Here are some do's and don'ts to help you:

Be supportive. Kids need to know that you love and respect them unconditionally and that their weight does not define their self-worth. Kids who feel loved and confident are more likely to be able to make positive lifestyle changes and feel good about themselves while they're doing it.
Don't be the "food police." Watching over your kids like a hawk and creating a list of "forbidden foods" is a strategy likely to backfire, advises Reichenberger, who says that kids whose diets are severely restricted will often resort to sneaking food and even binging in private.
Teach your children about balanced nutrition. The whole family should have a basic understanding of what constitutes a healthful diet (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, and seeds). If you don't have a good understanding yourself, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian and take your children with you if they're old enough.
Involve the children in shopping, menu planning, and cooking. It's helpful for kids to be involved and feel like they have some control over their diet.
Have several healthy snacks on hand. It's normal for kids to get hungry between meals. Healthful snacks will keep them going throughout the day. Kid-friendly choices include apple slices with peanut butter, yogurt with granola, dried fruit and nuts, and pre-cut vegetable sticks with low-fat dip.
Don't use food as punishment or reward. Kids should understand that food is fuel for a healthy body, as well as a source of pleasure; associating food with punishment or reward may distort children's views of the role of food in their lives.
Have your kids eat their meals and snacks at the table. Kids (and adults) who eat while watching TV or doing other activities are more likely to overeat because they're not paying attention to how much they're eating.
Encourage Physical activity. This may be one of the most important things you can do for your kids, say the experts, because regular exercise is vital to weight control, as well as to health. While kid-centered activities like team sports or community activity programs are great, Reichenberger also recommends that parents exercise with their kids and make it a family affair, such as with walks after school or weekend hikes.
Don't give your children any weight-loss remedies or medicines, unless directed by your doctor. Many are not safe for children and could cause harmful side effects.

Promoting Healthful Habits For Life
The best advice for any family is to eat and enjoy healthful food together and to exercise together. Kids who learn healthful behaviors as part of a family lifestyle when they're young are much more likely to continue those healthful habits throughout the rest of their lives.

Resources:

American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.aafp.org/afp

Weight-control Information Network
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit

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