Involving The Whole Family May Help To Prevent Childhood Obesity
There’s no question that obesity in children is an extremely complicated issue without any simple, lasting solutions. However, a new scientific statement issued in late January 2012 in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation examines various strategies which have proven to be effective in helping children to lose weight. Certain studies have found that childhood obesity often includes symptoms such as high cholesterol and blood pressure which are otherwise usually associated with obesity and adults, and others have found that overweight children are highly likely to remain overweight as adults.
Getting The Whole Family Involved
The report suggested that efforts at weight loss are often far more effective if the rest of the family gets involved, particularly the parents, who can have the most positive impact in helping children to shed pounds as well as to stay at a lower, healthier rate. For this to work, however, the parents may need to alter some of their own habits and behaviors, as well experimenting with some new, research-based strategies.
One such strategy involves determining particular behaviors that will have to been changed in order to be more effective. For example, simply telling the child that they need more exercise is not sufficient – it needs to be clear exactly what form that exercise will take; it’s even more effective if it involves other family members so the child doesn’t feel singled out.
Another approach is to change what food is where in the kitchen, so that healthier foods are more easily reached. Some studies have shown that this is particularly useful for short-term weight loss, and some families have also had success with putting up gently worded signs in the kitchen, such as “Are you really hungry, or just bored? Go play.” Keeping the present goals small and realistic for the child’s age group may also help them to develop and retain healthy behaviors.
It’s also important that the reinforcement be positive, meaning focusing less on punishment for doing things wrong and more on praise for things they do right, and also for the parents to be both consistent in their behaviors as well as to make sure the child doesn’t feel alone in their struggle. If a certain food group needs to be eliminated for the child, it helps if the rest of the family also stops eating that food (provided there aren’t individual health issues preventing this).
The authors did acknowledge that further research is necessary, including ways to raise awareness in parents as to whether their children are in fact overweight, how grandparents and other extended family members play in a part in a changing lifestyle, and how technology can be applied.