Obesity in Children – What Parents can do

by admin on June 17, 2010

fat kids at mcdonalds

Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Please parents, teach your children healthy eating habits early on.

Certainly what’s most important to keep in mind is that a parent in their best desire to help their children, need to avoid negative reinforcement ‘don’t do this’, ‘ I told you not to do that’, ‘if you do this you know what may happen’. It’s important for parents to realize that those kinds of approaches aren’t particularly effective. Rather a multidisciplinary approach that is the use of exercise, the use of diet, the use of behavior modification, to change children’s behavior and have the whole family participate.

So what approach  would encourage physical activity and selective eating?

I think it’s important to start with an assessment of the family to get a sense of the family dynamic and what they are capable of doing. Secondly, careful analysis of the child’s physical activities in the past and the present are also important. And lastly and perhaps the most important element is an analysis of the current diet and dietary intake. Once those three assessments are made, and readiness for change is established, the family can start their journey towards re-engineering their lifestyle towards leading a healthier lifestyle. And all those leads must be addressed. Proper parenting skills, proper exercise, proper eating are all key elements in a successful lifestyle change.

So the family that decides to keep certain foods out of the house will generally have better success than those who have all those candies and junk foods around that kids are apt to grab?

I think it’s difficult for children to make choices when faced with a temptation of foods that have a great appeal that they’ve been eating for a long time. And I certainly think that given the context that these children have grown up in, it is much better to remove the particularly problematic foods from the home. Now, of course the major philosophy of our program and others is to moderate intake. That means not to completely exclude, but rather to minimize the amount of exposure to problematic foods. This however must be done within the context of appropriate behavioral support otherwise it’s likely to fail and a cycle of negative reinforcement continue.

So a rapid weight loss is not ideal; to slow weight loss and changing the lifestyle is ideal?

A slow and steady weight loss associated with appropriate lifestyle change is just the most ideal way to approach weight loss in some children. That may mean no weight loss at all, but rather continued linear growth while the child grows taller but maintains about the same weight,  by definition they will be getting lighter for their size and this too might be an appropriate goal to expect for the child.

Sometimes kids go on a diet and they do really a good job and they get  to a period where they stagnate and just stop losing the weight. How can we get them through this kind of period so they don’t give up?

Like most everything else that requires behavioral change it’s important to understand that there will be peaks and valleys in terms of how we succeed in maintaining this kind of lifestyle change. It’s important not to allow negative feelings to prevent the child from remembering the successes that they’ve had in the past and look forward to the successes that they will have in the future. It can’t be stressed enough that children will experience ebbs and flows in success in approaching lifestyle change and not to discard all the positive change they made if they express a period or episode where they’re not that successful.

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