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Combating Childhood Obesity Requires Family Lifestyle Changes

School lunches come under fire, but the childhood obesity epidemic is much larger than that.

Earlier this year, USA Today reported on the USDA's push for school lunch changes. The agency recommends that schools lower sodium, include more whole grains and serve low-fat milk in an effort to address the childhood obesity issues that plague our country.

Childhood obesity is when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. The extra pounds often lead to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In many cases, childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.

How do you determine if your child is obese or close to it? Besides taking an honest look at their size and extra rolls that children should not have, there is the Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI is derived from the proportion of weight and height, in combination with age, and in comparison to the average child of the same age. BMI is an indicator of body fatness and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

If a child's BMI shows that he or she is overweight and possibly obese, our next step as parents is to help them make healthy eating choices and encourage them to get more exercise.

School lunch changes will only go so far in reversing childhood obesity trends. Indeed, an entire family lifestyle change comes into play.

Starts in the home

It is unrealistic to expect that your child will follow healthy eating and exercise habits if you do not.

According to the CDC-BMI calculator, and visually noticing the extra rolls of fat and climbing numbers on the scale, both my children, my husband and myself are overweight and/or obese. Even the dog is overweight, so this tells you how unhealthy eating and exercise habits trickle down.

In an effort to get control of the situation and help us to become more fit and healthy, I have begun to institute an entire family lifestyle change.

We are starting out small by being more aware of portion sizes and cutting down on second helpings. Gradually, we'll work our way up to total fitness.

It is my hope that by starting modestly and steadily adding more and more healthy lifestyle changes, we will be more willing and able to stick with it for our lifetime.

I involve the kids as much as possible in making healthy eating choices, because I find that with their involvement, they are more likely to jump on board and stay on board for the long term. We chose more fresh fruits and vegetables as sides to our meals, rather than high-calorie flavored pastas or rice dishes.

As for treats and snacks, we do not deny them; we have just changed how we eat them.

Instead of taking the whole bag of munchies from the cabinet and either pouring a bowl or eating right out of the bag, the boys and I went through and put proper portion sizes into small baggies.

Surprisingly, they love it and usually only take one, even though some of the serving sizes seem pretty skimpy.

Another family change we are making is helping each other be more active, rather than playing Wii or watching television. Now that the weather is getting nicer, there's a lot more we can do outside to stay active.

An entire family lifestyle change doesn't happen overnight and will take some time and effort. But if you are like me and my family, once you put your mind to it, you can do it.

annamarie June 02, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Blame the Food and Drug administration who have poisoned the food supply with chemicals that cause diabetes and obesity. This is why people cannot lose weight and it was proven by a European filmmaker SEE HERE http://spirithappy.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/can-i-lose-weight-not-with-these-popular-diets-says-usa-today-news/
Nicole June 02, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Good job and I totally agree thay the family has to do it as a whole. I am doing the same with my family. I wish you luck. Www.Losingweightwithchild.com
Pam Kawczynski June 02, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Thanks Nicole and Good Luck to you and your family as well.
Jennifer Moreau June 02, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Absolutely! It's those around you - family, friends, etc. - that can sway people toward healthier or unhealthier choices. Congratulations on taking the first steps and starting! Plus, starting small is fantastic. It ensures that, in the long run, the small changes are more managable, can build upon one another and will become a lifestyle rather than a fad done for a few weeks or 2-3 months. That's how I started out. After my cancer scare (and working in a corporate job 60-80 hours p/wk traveling frequently, eating fast food, etc.), I decided enough was enough. I had a lot of life to live and I wasn't going to spend my next 30+ years like this. So, I started walking. Then, I started running. We bought a treadmill and I actually used it (it helped that it was in front of the tv down in the basement :) ). Then, we started eating healthier with lean meats (venison, chicken, fish, turkey), more vegetables and whole grains (including whole grain pasta, which pasta is one of my favorites). Low and behold, I lost 20 lbs. But, I gained about 10lbs. back because I got complacent and off track. After making a career change and incorporating more strength training into my routine, I lost 15 lbs and more importantly, dropped over 10% body fat, which translated into reduced inches and clothes sizes. I now have been able to maintain this for over 2 and 1/2 years. It's definitely tough, especially special occasions (graduation party or wedding anyone?). But, it can be done.
Pam Kawczynski June 03, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Jennifer, Thanks for the words of encouragement and for sharing your own experiences. Making lifestyle changes is always easier when there are others there to cheer you on and encourage you when you falter. Congratulations on your successes and again, thanks for sharing.

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