Thursday, January 31, 2008

(Teen Obesity) Small Changes Prevent Obesity by Connect with Kids

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay.”

– Tina Scott-Morgan, mother

For kids and adults, losing weight seems like an endless and insurmountable task: flavorless diet foods, gym memberships, hours of sweating and pain. But a new pediatric study reports that it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

To improve her daughter’s health and weight, Tina stopped buying carbonated drinks.

“We don’t drink sodas in this house,” says Tina Scott-Morgan, mother.

“They have too much sugar in them,” says her daughter, Marissa, 9.

Too much sugar and empty calories. According to a study in the journal, Pediatrics, children who walked an extra mile a day and cut out 100 calories daily showed a significant drop in their BMI (Body Mass Index) – an indicator used to determine healthy weight. One hundred calories equals one can of soda.

“When we cut that out and replaced it with water and milk, I could tell that there’s a significant difference in Marissa’s weight,” says Morgan.

“The fact is that you’re adding extra calories into your system that your body technically doesn’t need,” says Beth Passehl, Fit Kids coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Experts say it’s all about small changes.

“Cut back gradually, cut back by 10 percent each day, cut back by one serving a day, and you may find that starts to make a difference. It’s small gradual steps that lead to life-long habits,” says Passehl.

Step-by-step, Marissa is working her way to a healthier life.

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay,” says her mom.

Tips for Parents

Eating breakfast is important for weight management. Research shows most people who have lost more than 60 pounds and kept it off for six years do eat breakfast. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Make a rule that no one in the family can eat while watching television. It’s hard for kids to realize how much they are eating when they’re absorbed in a television program. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Find ways to get the entire family more active. Have everyone in the family wear a pedometer, and compete to see who can take the most steps during the day. If the child wins, reward him/her with a fun activity. If the child loses, assign him/her an active chore. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Do not make your family give up foods they love. Instead, find healthier ways to prepare these foods. For example, frozen French fries can be baked instead of fried. Cheesecake or macaroni and cheese can be made with a low-fat cheese. Take a cooking class to get your family excited about healthy recipes. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Teach kids to use portion control when eating out. Since most portions at restaurants are double what they should be, encourage kids to take half home, or to share with another person. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

Calories are calories. It doesn’t matter where they come from. Keep portion size in mind, regardless of whether you’re eating a salad or junk food. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

According to The American Heart Association (AHA), healthy physical activity is defined as regular participation in activities that increase your heart rate above its resting level. However, physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. An active child plays sports, participates in PE class, does household chores, spends time outdoors and regularly travels by foot or bicycle.

The AHA offers the following guidelines:

Encourage your kids to regularly walk, bike, play outside and interact with other children.

Allow no more than two hours per day for sedentary activities – TV, computers, video games.

Promote weekly participation in age-appropriate sports or sandlot games.

Ensure your child participates in a daily school PE class that includes at least 20 minutes of coordinated large-muscle exercise.

Make sure your child has access to school/community facilities that enable safe participation in physical activities.

Provide opportunities for physical activities that are fun, increase confidence and involve friends.
Organize regular family outings that involve walking, cycling, swimming or other recreational activities.

Be a positive role model for a physically active lifestyle.


Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist
The American Heart Association (AHA)

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