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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Blog Carnival

This article was written for inclusion in the blog carnival hosted by Littlestomaks to promote awareness of childhood obesity as part of the National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Please read to the end of this article to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


 By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD  Date: 9/14/10

In 2001, the Surgeon General issued a call to action to prevent obesity. Since that time, a lot of effort on behalf of policymakers, health professionals, advocacy groups, parents, teachers and others who care for children has gone into creating awareness about the cost of obesity and related illnesses including, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, just to name a few. With the President and First Lady of the United States fully invested in efforts to stem the tide of childhood obesity, has the time now come to change the focus of the conversation?  If we do want to change the tone and tenor of the conversation, then we have to listen to what parents, caregivers, and kids have to say about their weight, diet, and overall health. We need to understand what might motivate them to take control of their health and help them overcome the barriers that can get in their way of achieving an active and healthful lifestyle.

In 2005, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation convened focus groups related to issues surrounding childhood obesity from both the child and caregiver’s perspective.  Here are a few things we learned:

Children told us…

·         They think that playtime is important. Some favor sedentary activities like video games, and others lean towards outdoor play or organized sports.

·         They find family to be very important. They see their moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers as their role models. They recognize that their families take care of them and their health.

·         They recognize that being overweight has short-term consequences. Being overweight can lower self-esteem because kids may be teased by their peers, and aren’t as good at sports as other children.

·         They have a general idea of “health.” Most children realize that to maintain health they need to eat right and participate in physical activity.

·         They recognize barriers to health, including a lack of healthy role models, less healthful food choices at school, boring exercise options, and limited opportunities for physical activity.

Parents told us…

·         They feel that the complications of life – children, work, home, and other activities – have taken priority over maintaining a healthful lifestyle.

·         They see themselves as caregivers and providers. As a result, they feel guilty when they prioritize healthful activities such as going to the gym over spending time and energy on their children.

·         They favor convenience. When it comes to mealtime, they typically keep easy, ready-to-eat meals on hand. Grocery shopping is a quick trip to replenish convenience foods. Physical activity must fit into the family plan or else it won’t happen at all.

The Bottom Line

Children find their families to be very important and see their caregivers as role models. However, the chaos of day-to-day life can keep parents with the best intentions from being good role models for their children when it comes to healthful eating and regular physical activity. Moms and dads are stressed, tired, and frazzled as they try and manage their lives and the lives of their children. Health professionals – doctors, nurses, and dietitians that practice in all areas – private practice, schools, recreation and community centers – need to be armed with tips and tricks to help parents seamlessly integrate healthy eating and physical activity into their lives and their children’s lives. Armed with this knowledge and “know-how”, we can create a new conversation with parents and caregivers about how to live an active and healthful lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing obesity. Here are some quick and easy ideas that you can share with others who are interested in making positive changes as a family:

1.       Plan ahead. Put grocery shopping at the top of your priority list – after all, what’s more important than feeding your family? Designate one to two hours out of every week for grocery shopping (includes time driving time and putting those groceries away). If possible, leave the kids at home for stress-free shopping – there are many 24 hour grocery stores that work with your scheduling needs! Before you go, take a few minutes to consider what meals and snacks you will serve your family throughout the week and make your shopping list accordingly.  Consider designating a few hours over the course of the week to make some meals to freeze for a later day and cut up fruits and veggies for easy snacking. Your children can help you bag baby carrots or prepare certain ingredients. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids the basics of healthy eating.

2.       Family activities = physical activities. Going out to dinner on Friday night? Watching Jimmy’s baseball game? If possible, leave the car at home and walk or ride bikes! If you have things you need to bring along, look into different backpacks that can fit your needs. Is your family into video games? Try family tournaments that involve virtual sports like Wii tennis or boxing.  Turn on some music and have your own dance party!

3.       Water, water, everywhere. Refrigerate water bottles for easy access. Invite children to grab water whenever they feel like it!  Consider using reusable water bottles covered with children’s favorite characters and/or colors.

4.       Parents – your health is important. Find ways to sneak off for a run, a walk, or a trip to the gym a few times a week. Don’t feel guilty – you can make it work! Take advantage of playgroups and exercise when your child is at a friend’s house. Attend early morning workout classes before your children wake up. Form a walking, running, or exercise club with other moms and dads from your children’s school.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is an opportunity to change the conversation and focus on the future by taking steps today to help families in their quest to be healthy tomorrow. We can start by putting an emphasis on all the good things that parents and kids can do together to keep everyone in the family healthy. As one motivated mom said in the focus groups:

“I want to set a good example for my daughter.  She’s a little on the larger side for her age, and I don’t want her to grow up worrying about her weight.”

The key to health for moms, dads, and kids really is family. Make good health a family goal. Make fun physical activities a part of your family traditions. Make nutritious food what your family eats most of the time. Help make childhood obesity a memory, and healthy kids and families today’s reality.

How will you get started?

*** Say NO to Childhood Obesity Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: 7 Things Parents Say That Cause Eating and Weight Problems in Kids Michelle May, Physician and author of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, highlights a few things parents say which can have unintended consequences (@EatWhatYouLove) Childhood Obesity Kia Robertson of Today I Ate a Rainbow suggests that prevention of childhood obesity should start with education and educating parents about basics of healthy eating by breaking it into achievable parts (@eatingarainbow) Childhood Obesity: A Reality Check Dr Susan Rubin, founder of BSF, suggests we change our approach to looking at childhood obesity (@DrSuRu) Childhood Obesity: Prevention Starts in Infancy Nutrition expert Sarah Fennel reminds us that prevention is the best cure and offers a few tips to raise healthy eaters (@FoodFunHealth) Giving Our Children a Chance at Health Registered dietitian Susan Dopart offers tips to parents for taking charge of their child's health in the world of over-processed "kid foods" (@smnutritionist) Healthy School Campaigns Works on Creating Healthy Food Environments A report on Chicago's Healthy School Campaigns (HFC), a non profit dedicated to creating a healthy food environment in schools How to Prevent and Manage Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Jessica Levinson offers practical tips to prevent and manage childhood obesity (@JLevinsonRD) Lessons I have Learned as a Mom Registered dietitian Alysa Bajenaru shares some of the lessons she has learned that have helped her develop a good understanding of what it takes to feed her kids (@InspiredRD) Looking for a New Trend in Childhood Obesity? Registered dietitian Elizabeth Rahavi of the IFIC brings the focus back on family in the debate about childhood obesity (@FoodInsight) Losing Weight: It Starts in Your Head Registered dietitian Cindy Williams reminds us of the power of attitude and mindset in losing weight and controlling obesity (@nutritionchic) Making the Grade Registered dietitian Sally Kuzemchak evaluates her son's school programs on healthy eating and physical activity (@RMNutrition) Obesity and GERD: A Family Affair Jan Gambino, author of Reflux 101, writes about the link between overweight and GERD Parents, Let's Take a Positive Approach to Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Ashley Rosales from the Dairy Council of California encourages parents to take a positive approach in helping their kids build healthy habits Revolutionize the Way Your Kids Eat in Five Easy Steps Sociologist Dr Dina Rose suggests we shift our focus from nutrition to eating habits if we are serious about solving childhood obesity (@DrDrRose) Surprising Easy Solution for Preventing Childhood Obesity Research shows benefits of extended breastfeeding in reducing risk of childhood obesity (@TwinToddlersDad) The Problem Behind Childhood Obesity Ken Whitman, Publisher of Organic Connections, points out that our national priorities concerning childhood obesity are misplaced and calls for a renewed focus on the health of our nations kids. Yoga Gets Kids Moving Registered dietitian Danielle Omar has an interesting suggestion for solving childhood obesity - get your kids into yoga! (@2eatwellRD)


5 comment(s) so far...

Re: Looking for A New Trend in Childhood Obesity?

Thanks for sharing the results... I always love the focus groups/research IFIC does!

By Nour El-Zibdeh, RD on   Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Re: Looking for A New Trend in Childhood Obesity?

Very interesting results from the focus groups of kids and parents. Indeed, this is a nice way of trying to understand the nature of the problem and barriers to solutions.

You are so right about the stress of daily life that parents feel as they try to juggle through a variety of tasks each day. I think the main challenge is to be able to prioritize in the face of ever increasing jobs and activities. We are constantly bombarded by messages like "you can have it all", and "why wait", when we know that this is not possible and we must make a choice. And while we struggle to really "have it all", we let the health of our children and our happiness slip by from within our reach.

Healthy eating has to start from home. It has to be our priority. We can't wait for the Government or the food industry or the media to do this for us.

Thank you for providing a different perspective on the childhood obesity debate.

By TwinToddlersDad on   Monday, September 20, 2010

Re: Looking for A New Trend in Childhood Obesity?

Thank you for sharing the results of the focus groups. They underscore the importance of practical, positive, culturally sensitive approaches to this issue.

By Michelle May MD on   Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Re: Looking for A New Trend in Childhood Obesity?

the rate of severely obese children – those with BMIs at or above the 99th percentile – has tripled to a total of 2.7 million. A separate, smaller study shows that almost a third of parents underestimate their child’s weight.

By Play Blackjack Cards on   Friday, October 01, 2010

Re: Looking for A New Trend in Childhood Obesity?

Thanks for all of the nice feedback. It is great to see so many people focused on creating postive and actionable change.

By Elizabeth Rahavi on   Friday, October 01, 2010

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