Nearly one-third of American children are considered overweight or obese. Not surprisingly, healthcare providers are seeking to learn more about family-based interventions. While this approach has long been recommended, little research has been done to document its effectiveness. New studies, however, suggest that family-based interventions significantly improve the health status of children who are overweight or obese.
While involving the whole family has been shown to yield better results than targeting individual members, it is only part of the solution. A weight-management program requires several components to produce meaningful, long-lasting results.
- Parent-child involvement with age- and developmentally-appropriate activities
- Focus on how parents model health behaviors
- Monitoring children’s self-esteem, with a focus on health rather than weight
- Positive reinforcement, in group therapy, if applicable, and at home
- Behaviorally-based strategies that help families gain knowledge, skills, and self-confidence
- Educational messages on stress, sleep, diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors
- Significant time commitment
An effective weight-control approach should teach sustainable skills and habits, helping children incorporate healthy eating and physical activity long-term, not just for the duration of the program. Additionally, parents should consult with their healthcare provider before beginning any weight-loss plan.
Tips for Parents
As their children’s first role models, parents have an invaluable role to play in modeling healthy behaviors. The following suggestions can help parents put their children on a path to maintaining a healthy weight.
- Make a list of goals and focus on one at a time instead of trying to accomplish everything at once.
- Remove most foods from the home that are high in fats and sugars but have low nutritional value. Instead, go out for treats occasionally or keep only a small number of them in the house.
- Make healthy foods available and keep them within easy reach. Make time for family meals. It’s important for children to see parents enjoying healthy food and managing portion sizes. It also makes unhealthy behaviors, such as eating in front of the television, less likely. (Pediatric dietitians advise keeping the TV off during family meals). Try to serve most meals at home rather than eating out.
- Limit children’s screen time to two hours a day or less. Keep eating schedules structured by ensuring that children have three meals a day with no more than one or two snacks. To make it easier to keep an eye on children, restrict meals and snacking to the kitchen or dining area.
- Regularly get the family involved in physical activity. Make it a part of your routine.
At Crystal Run, a pediatrician Newburgh, NY can provide recommendations so you can help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight.