Childhood obesity has been in the forefront of the news and remains a growing concern for many parents. Since the 1970’s, childhood and adolescent obesity has increased three- to six-fold, such that nearly 20% of 2- to 19-year-old children and adolescents are obese.
Not only does obesity in this age group significantly affect self-esteem (which usually worsens with age), it is also a serious medical condition that can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – all risk factors for early heart disease. Dr. Margaret Lewin, Medical Director at Cinergy Health www.cinergyhealth.com, provides tips to reduce and prevent childhood obesity.
Proactive Steps Children Can Take to Reduce Weight:
First and foremost: get help! It’s extremely difficult to make long-term, substantial changes in life-style alone without guidance and ongoing support and encouragement. Steps include:
* Increase physical activity. Even if not athletically inclined, young people can always find physical activities within their capabilities that are fun. These activities are best done within a supervised group, where there is constant encouragement, other people to cheer them on, and a sense of obligation to participate on a regular
* Severely limit the time spent on solitary, sedentary activities other than schoolwork. For example, set a daily limit on electronic games, watching television, surfing the internet, texting, etc.
* Increase social time not centered on food. For example,participate in more after-school activities.
* Learn what a healthy diet is! Then take steps to replace unhealthy foods with those which offer better nutrition and lower calories. Eat the healthier, low-calories foods first, dampening the appetite for other foods. Find socially acceptable substitutes for what your friends are eating: for example, cut-up vegetables (instead of chips) with dips, fruit instead of high-fat, high calorie desserts. Limit portion size by using smaller plates and sharing off-diet foods with friends. Replace colas with seltzer flavored with lemon, lime or even some cocoa.
* Educate and encourage families to shop more wisely, learn to prepare tasty, healthy alternatives to fattening foods, and keep healthy, low-calorie snacks readily available.
Tips to Prevent Childhood Obesity:
The community must get involved in solving this problem. For examples:
* Safe neighborhood playgrounds and other facilities for after-school activities
* Organized athletic leagues for children, with role models leading them
* Good (and required) physical education programs in schools
* Nutritious meals and low-calorie, healthy snacks in school cafeterias
* Hands-on, fun lessons (for students and parents) on shopping for and preparing nutritious meals
* Fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably straight from the farm) and healthy carbohydrates at affordable prices must be made available
* Intensive community programs such as the ones below
* CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is a school health program designed to promote physical activity and healthy food choices. The program is implemented in over 7,500 schools and after-school programs across the U.S. and Canada.
* Middle-School Physical Activity and Nutrition (M-SPAN) is an intervention designed to increase physical activity, encourage healthy eating, and decrease body mass in boys and girls in middle school.
* Shaping America’s Youth encourages community programs across the country focused on childhood physical activity or nutrition to become part of the SAY national registry of programs www.shapingamericasyouth.org/Page.aspx?nid=44 (The SAY Network). To date, more than 1500 organizations, corporations, and communities, representing every sector of the US, have provided information about their efforts to reverse the health crisis of overweight and inactivity in young people.
* Eat for Life: A program that offers a holistic approach to healing from a nutritional point of view. The program provides a solution through education, motivation and accountability. A professional nutritionist coaches kids to success.
Dr. Margaret Lewin
Chief Medical Director of Cinergy Health
A graduate of Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Lewin’s undergraduate degree from Purdue University is in Aeronautics, Astronautics, and the Engineering Sciences and she holds an M.S. in applied mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Board-certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology, she is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She is affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and The Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Lewin has worked throughout her career to improve the American healthcare system. She has been on the boards of state and local medical societies and is Immediate Past President of the New York County Medical Society and Immediate Past District President of the American College of Physicians. Her decades-long volunteer work has included service to many local projects and organizations and has been enriched by her medical missions to the Third World.
Dr. Lewin has authored numerous articles in leading medical journals and lay magazines, as well as chapters for medical textbooks. Her areas of special interest and expertise include primary and preventive care, travel medicine, men’s health and women’s health.