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New Year’s Diet: Should It Be a Family Affair?

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It should not be alarming to hear that in the US, 1 out of 3 children and a third of adults are considered overweight or obese.  Again, it should not come as a surprise to hear that with an increase in weight there is an increase in:

  • coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes (a large scale issue in and of itself!)
  • cancers
  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • high levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides
  • liver and gall bladder disease
  • sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • osteoarthritis
  • gynecological problems

Just pause for a moment here.  Read the list above and really allow yourself to think: are you, or anyone in your immediate family already dealing with any of these health issues? Have you seen them struggle with doctors, medical bills, frustrations of not wanting to hear about another fad diet that could help strip the weight? I know that it is frustrating because I have counseled these types of patients in the hospital.  The hospital is the last place you want to be when dealing with these diseases because, by that point, the problem has already scaled to a more serious health issue.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to our children and their weight? 

I have personally been on the opposite side of the overweight/obesity spectrum.  When my daughter was a month old, our pediatrician told me he felt there could be reason to diagnose her as failure to thrive and that I may need to start offering her formula.  Being a first time mother as well as exclusively breastfeeding, I was about to kick him in the shins.  Instead of reacting on my aggravation, I firmly stated that my in-laws were short in stature as well as pointing out the obvious truth of being a smaller individual myself! At that point, they noted in her chart the facts I had offered as well as made it clear that we would closely monitor her growth.  To this day she is perfectly healthy and has been since the day we were blessed with her love.  So what is my point? Well, as a professional, I know that everyone is an individual and as a family we are an individual unit as well.  Families need to come together to help a member in need when faced with any medical condition.  It is up to the physician to address the issue of weight, and the family’s responsibility to seek the assistance from professionals.  Together the right decisions can be made to formulate the best plan of action towards better health before having to deal with any repercussions that will result from being overweight or obese.  

There is growing evidence showing that the weight of our children stems from as early on as conception.  There is also evidence showing that when a child is plotted on a weight-for-length at the age two, and “found to be over the 95th percentile, they are likely to continue to be overweight as both children and adolescents.” (www.todaysdietitian.com and July 2010 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics).  Even earlier on, as an infant of 6 months old, who is at that 95th percentile, they are already at an increased risk of maintaining that obesity profile (85th-94th percentile is considered overweight) beyond 24 months if no particular intervention is addressed.   

I firmly stand my grounds on saying that it is up to us, the parents/guardians, to work with professionals (doctors, registered dietitians and certified personal trainers) in efforts to keep our families within a healthy BMI and weight-for-length/height.  It is our responsibility as mothers, the privileged of the sexes, who carry our children for an average of nine months, to nourish ourselves in ways of ensuring that our unborn children are truly beginning their lives in the healthiest way possible.  Isn’t this what you want for your loved ones?

So you have decided that you are going to seek advice.  What can we do for you as dietitians?

  • pantry/refrigerator makeover
  • grocery store tour (Yes, there are more and more dietitians working closely with grocery stores)
  • assist in meal planning (Super Healthy Kids!!)
  • educate on making the “better” choice, regardless of whether it is processed or not, a dessert or a meatless alternative
  • teach food prep and basic cooking skills
  • work directly with your physician to ensure a comprehensible healthy lifestyle plan with your child’s healthy status at the forefront
  • …and more!

What can personal trainers do for you?

  • make a fitness plan based on your family’s lifestyle
  • show you how to utilize the equipment you may already have at home
  • help you find the perfect fitness facility
  • assess short term and long term goals and help you formulate them into attainable ones
  • work with your dietitian and physicians
  • motivate you and make you and your family accountable in respect to your personal goals
  • …and more!

In bringing it all together, begin by admitting that there is a health risk and make it a priority to get everyone involved.  The plan should focus around the family becoming a healthy unit, with the parents taking the lead.  Begin by offering the best food choices for your family’s lifestyle, keeping the childs weight, at the very least maintained, and making everyday physical activity a priority for the family.  You can rest assured, knowing that your entire family will be “fit and fabulous, forever!”

 

Although a sensitive topic, we would love to hear your personal experience with weight issues in your family (on either side of the spectrum).  

Here are some other resources to take a look at:

Our Super Healthy Kids Facebook page

Kids and Weight Loss - from Super Healthy Kids

Partnership for a Healthier America

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; childhood nutrition

American Heart Association -What is Childhood Obesity

Dr. Bill Sears-Great ways to not go on a diet from America’s pediatrician

Nutrition Detectives and ABC for Fitness-from Dr. David Katz

Statistics on prevalence of overweight and obese Americans CDC

 

 


9 Comments

Melissa

Hi,

Thanks for a very interesting article. I wanted to ask about children over 24 months who are in the 95th percentile being classed as being in an obesity profile. My 3 year old daughter is in the 98th percentile in all of her stats and always has been since birth. She has steadily followed this percentile line and it has never been mentioned that she is overweight or obese (we live in the UK). I guess what concerns me most is that she eats an incredibly healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg, everything is homecooked and she very, very rarely gets anything like ice cream. She is by no means fat and she is very tall for her age so it worries me that she would be classed as overweight.

I wondered what your thoughts about this were?

Reply

I couldn’t agree more Jackie, we have a responsibility to our ourselves and our families to encourage healthy habits :)

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jackie-2

Hi Melissa,

First, it is always best to listen to your pediatrician especially (as I feel) when you have had the same one since your child’s birth. And I would assume (and hope) that your pediatrician knows you and your family health history as well. That being said, an easy answer for this would be to say that there are no worries on your part (with the aforementioned statements) at this time. Your physician may feel that since she has been stable in growth, no drastic changes (in all areas of growth), no feeding problems, theres intake of nutrient dense foods, and if there are no other family health issues, then it is highly likely that your physician sees no cause for concern. This is one example why it is important to make our personal medical community aware of any health issues in our immediate family, to always offer our children the healthiest food options, stay active and always ask questions while in the doctors office.

I have also looked at a growth chart online, from http://www.growthcharts.rcpch.ac.uk. With that particular one it appears that over the 98th percentile is more cause for concern. And not to confuse anymore, that is just one other aspect to take into consideration. There are different growth charts used and although I have not seen too much of a difference, it could very well be another factor concerning the health of your daughter.

As a mother, I would personally talk with my pediatrician. He/she will be able to ease your concerns. In the meantime, you are doing an fabulous job Melissa in offering your daughter the good foods you already do! I hope this helps!

Reply

Yes, that’s so true. I agree with you Jackie. Even I think that we need to spend time to discuss and set our family new year resolution. Not only for healthy/diet issue, but for other aspects of our life. I did this personally with my lovely family. Some parts worked, but some others failed. But still worth to do. Really interesting article. Thanks!

Reply

I drop a comment whenever I appreciate a article on a website or if I have something to valuable to contribute to the discussion.
Usually it’s triggered by the passion displayed in the post
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Reply

I ignored the percentile data. My children put on weight prior to a growth spurt and then lost it when they grew. I agree they certainly get their habits from parents.

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