In continuing the theme of Childhood Obesity Month, this week the focus is on you, and me. What can each of us do? Will you share ideas after reading this post?
First, we can check our attitudes. This is not a time for judgement, but a time to come together in unity and share solutions and support. The problem is not weight, rather the problem we face is ill health. Especially when children are suffering from adult disease. Research is overwhelming that the issue with overweight and obesity is the increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure to name a few. These risks are strongly related to certain behaviors. Further, there are many kids and adults that are overweight or even in low obesity range that are healthy, but not “small”. This leads me to believe, as do most of the experts in the study of overweight and obesity, that the focus needs to be more on health than weight. I know many thin or “normal” weight adults who are far from healthy, because of their choices. This means, if your child is thin or “normal” weight and choosing unhealthy, then the following are choices for prevention of future weight and health issues.
These are the behaviors that we KNOW are linked to good health, great quality of life and low risk of chronic disease:
• Choosing to be active daily- 60 - 90 minutes for children and adolescents; 30 - 60 minutes for adults.
• Sleeping 7-9 hours per day. This is becoming a BIG factor.
• Choosing a predominantly plant based meal pattern.
• Choosing to eat breakfast.
• Choosing to consume a lot of colorful foods daily, 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables relying mostly on vegetables.
• Choosing to limit animal products. Aiming for 6 ounces or less of animal protein DAILY.
• Choosing to drink adequate water- 48 - 64 ounces daily of water not just fluid.
• Choosing whole foods.
• Choosing to have a positive outlook.
• Limiting alcohol. Although the legal drinking age is 21, this is an issue that needs to be addressed from a health standpoint with kids as well as a legal issue.
• Choosing to avoid tobacco products.
These seem simple but we are challenged as a society to make these choices. Yet, many individuals and families have found ways to be healthy and when we share the positives of what does work for people, then we all win .
Second, as an expert, I can tell you lots of ways to make the above happen in your everyday life. In fact I have given numerous suggestions in past blog posts. I’m going to provide a few ideas and see how many of you are willing to step up and share what works for you and your family. Will you be part of the solution with me?
Keeping the focus on kids and adolescents. What works for activity?
• If you have the means, keep kids enrolled in an activity of their choice. The only unacceptable choice is no activity. Whether they change activity every season or every year or stick with a few same activities, it’s fabulous!
• If you don’t have the means, what will it take? Are there affordable or free programs in your neighborhood or area?
• Go to the playground or park on the weekends.
• Walk or ride a bike to school with your kid at least once per week, especially if you live a mile away or closer. If you don’t have sidewalks, lobby for them.
• Play- kickball, basketball, catch, tennis, hop scotch, jump rope, ... you get the picture.
• Limit screen time to 2 hours or less each and every day. This includes screens of all sizes- i.e. that new iPhone 5! Previous generations didn’t “die” when we had to use our imagination and communicate with each other!
• Put something colorful in EVERY meal and snack.
• Eat dinner together as often as possible. Find a way to make it happen around our long work and commute hours.
• Choose the colorful foods your kids will eat, not just the favorites.
• Allow kids to stop eating when they’ve had enough and teach them to wait 20 minutes before getting seconds.
• Limit foods in boxes and bags. When these are consumed, portion out an appropriate amount and put the rest away before bite one.
• Make fruit as dessert a big deal!
• Appreciate that some flavors are strong for young taste buds.
• Two ounces of protein is PLENTY for a child, sometimes one ounce is enough depending on their age.
• Serve child size portions and order the same.
• Limit or better avoid sugary beverages. IF your family consumes them, make it special vs. everyday. Southern sweet tea IS a sugary beverage! How do you limit? Don’t buy them!
• Instead of finding healthier ways to prepare desserts, stick to the tastiest full fat and sugar version and serve for special occasions only. This doesn’t mean every time company comes over. That’s what we did when company was a rare and a special occasion too.
• Determine the best bed time for your child or adolescent to get enough sleep based on when they get up. They will live if they don’t see that episode of that show live!
• Have a bedtime routine to wind down from the day.
• Teach by example the importance of avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol.
• Balance your day from work, chores, and relaxing and enjoying each others company.
We are a community. And this is a community problem. Will you share examples of healthy choices your family makes so another family may benefit?