Need to get your kids off the couch and moving? Felicia Stoler gives tips on combating childhood obesity with fitness
This week exercise physiologist and registered dietitian Felicia Stoler was our guest on a live Web chat about ways to get kids moving and active. Stoler, author of “Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great” also hosted the TLC show “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids!” She offered great tips on how to get kids and teens off the couch and ways to incorporate exercise as a family.
Here’s an excerpt from the chat, which is archived in its entirety (portions of this transcript have been edited for clarity):
Q: Many parents are aware that their kids are overweight or obese, but probably a lot don’t know or aren’t sure. How do you know if your kids are overweight or obese, and you should rely on your pediatrician to let you know?
A. You can use BMI (body mass index) and age-appropriate height and weight tables and charts to look at your child’s percentile. If your child exceeds the 97th percentile there is cause for concern when it comes to their body weight. It is far better to be proactive than to wait until a child is morbidly overweight.
You should not rely on your pediatrician to let you know. Unfortunately, this is a very sensitive issue--they don’t want to upset you or the child, and they may not have the time or the resources to provide you with all the information you need to make the necessary lifestyle modifications.
Q: Some parents feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start helping their kids lose weight and get in shape. If you’re starting from ground zero, what are some simple things you recommend parents and families start doing to incorporate more daily activity?
A. Let’s begin with limiting technology time to no more than two hours per day--this includes any time needed on the computer for homework as well as television, video games and texting or e-mailing their friends.
Next, make a plan for your family to be active on the weekends. Make sure you are doing something that involves large muscle groups. Walking is super easy and can be done indoors or out. Hiking, climbing stairs, swimming, biking, skating or even something simple as putting on music and dancing in your house is great fun!
Q. Some parents who have the best intentions also make some missteps in trying to introduce more activity into their kids’ lives. What are some things parents should not do to help their kids be more physically active?
A: If your child does not like organized sports, then do not force them to do that for physical activity. Ask your child what they would like to do. If they say “nothing,” develop a list together and then make an action plan and participate alongside your child. Do not get frustrated if they don’t like it. Just as with food, sometimes kids don’t like the first “taste” of something new, whether it be food or physical activity. You can keep trying new things!
Q: One of the toughest scenarios in a family is when one child needs to lose weight but no one else does. By throwing out all the ice cream you may be depriving those who can eat it, but by having it in the house it may be too much of a temptation for that one child. What’s the best way to approach this?
A: I would treat that like a child with a severe food allergy. Keep the junk and binge foods out. There are opportunities to eat the other items out of the home or on special occasions. However, hiding foods has a negative emotional impact on children. They’ll find the hidden foods.
It’s not about punishing the other family members, but providing a healthy and supportive environment for the one who needs it the most. We can live without junk food, but we cannot live without food. So keep foods with purpose and health in mind in your home.