As National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month concludes, it’s clear to see that childhood obesity is a national issue and one that needs to be supported by faith communities, parents, schools, and community programs. However, families have a front-line advantage because parents can model and support the health and fitness of their children. Dr. Kerri Boutelle, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at UC San Diego said that,
“It is incredibly important for parents to model [a] higher level of physical activity, as well as provide opportunities for children and adolescents to engage in physical activity at home. Children are only at school six to seven hours a day, so there are lots of opportunity to get in the recommended amounts of physical activity at home. Home is considered where children learn health related habits such as managing their weight and staying active. Parents have more influence than they think, even with adolescents.”
In addition, Dr. Boutelle explains about the importance of both diet and exercise in the fight to reduce childhood obesity,
“Physical activity plays a significant role in assisting children and adolescents in managing their weight. The research suggests that physical activity and diet help kids lose more weight than either alone. Additionally, it has the extra bonus of helping with mood and sleep regulations as well.”
Dr. Boutelle is involved in a study at UC San Diego call FRESH, which provides a free weight loss program for the participants and their family in San Diego and surrounding areas. They are actively looking for participants so if you would like to get more information, you can contact FRESH coordinators directly.
Besides getting involved in the FRESH study, there are other strategies you can utilize to help keep yourself and your children healthy. For example, restaurants and fast food establishments post the number of calories in the menu. Keep track of how many calories you and your kids are consuming in a day. If you have had a particularly high calorie day, skip the fries and ice cream. Take a look at how you cook your food. Recipes that call for a lot of grease and fat to cook the food should be kept to a minimum, even if it’s your family’s favorite.
Another idea is to support any school and community effort for fitness and health. As a health advocate, sometimes I feel like health and fitness efforts in the school and community fall flat and no one is listening. Be the person who supports family fitness night or community health events.
Finally, be the hero for diet and exercise in your own home. Just like Dr. Boutelle says, parents have more influence than they realize. No matter what age your children are (maybe you are even an empty nester), you can always have a positive impact on your family.