Long A-‘Weight’-ed Solution?

New Guidelines on Weight Management for Children May Surprise You

obese childIt has been a long time since 1994 – the last time the guidelines on the prevention and management of childhood obesity were reviewed.

Hence, where is great excitement about guidelines from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care for the management and prevention of obesity in children released last month. What they say may surprise you.

The Recommendations

The Task Force recommends that in order to prevent and manage obesity in our children we need to increase parental knowledge and family activity. The guidelines also state “…interventions must be family-centered and may involve services delivered by an interdisciplinary team.”

1) Education

“Childhood obesity is complex; influenced by different parenting styles, family lifestyles and parents’ knowledge of what constitutes healthy growth,” states Dr. Patricia Parkin, chair of the Child Obesity Guideline Working group. By better understanding what causes obesity, we can focus on ways to prevent and manage it. It is not simply eating fast food and watching too much television that causes obesity. Body weight is influenced by:

  • The thyroid gland
  • Blood sugar spikes
  • Stress
  • Inflammation
  • Depression, anxiety or body-image concerns
  • Food allergies

Eating foods that fight inflammation (fish, kefir, berries, seaweed), have a low glycemic load (nuts, seeds, vegetables) and support the thyroid (kelp, nuts) are just the beginning of a diet that helps children not only achieve a healthy weight, but overall health as well.

2) Family Activity

Some of the most successful restaurants in the world understand that eliciting positive emotions in a consumer will cause them to return again and again. It’s not just customer loyalty – it is a strong connection, an emotional one. McDonald’s for example includes indoor playgrounds and offer children toys. By creating an environment that brings joy to a child, a child’s associates good feelings with eating at the restaurant. As parents, we can use this association of joy with food to motivate our kids to make healthy choices. Where to start? Dinner! Researchers at the University of California, found that families who have dinners together are more likely to have children with high levels of overall wellbeing. The study found that having family dinners does promote a positive family culture and was associated with a significant reduction in adolescent depression. Ways to Make Family Dinners* Joyous

Extending the positive emotional connections to family activities is another great way to manage weight. The new guidelines suggest we need to get our kids more active – and a great way to do that is by getting active with them. Only 7% of young Canadians meet the guidelines for physical activity.

Not sure the kids will get off the couch to join in? Try seeking out activities that they enjoy or try a new activity together like rock climbing or indoor water polo. Still finding resistance from your kids? Tell them to bring a friend along or rotate who gets to pick the activity.

Whenever possible try doing your family activity outside. In 2011, the journal of Environmental Science and Technology published a review of studies on outdoor activity and concluded that outdoor activity results in an improvement in mental wellbeing compared with exercising indoors. Fun Ways to Be Active As a Family

3) Interdisciplinary Team

Weight management involves the whole body and lifestyle: mental health, diet, physical activity and stress. An expert on it, such as a psychiatrist, nutritionist, personal trainer or fitness expert, best manages each aspect of health. Thus, it is no surprise that the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends that weight be managed by using a team of experts – an interdisciplinary team. A similar belief that a person’s health is influences by all of it’s parts is held by holistic nutritionist such as those at myWholeLife.com.

The Challenge We Face

Studies suggest that children, who have excess weight, often carry it into adulthood. Research studies have linked childhood obesity with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adulthood. It has also linked obesity with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adolescence – in other words our children may not have to wait until they are adults to see these diseases, they may be affected by them before they go to prom!

Hope Exists: Education is Making Change

Being healthy starts with knowing how. Increasing our understanding of obesity may be helping curb this epidemic. Estimates suggest about 32% of Canadian children (5 to 17 years of age) were obese in 2011, which is lower than the 35% in 2004.

With each step we take towards a healthier lifestyle helps reduce our youngest generations problem with obesity. Successful weight management in kids starts with parents – making good choices teaches your kids how to make similar choices and lead healthy lifestyles for the rest of their lives. Having weight management information available right at your fingertips can help.

 

References:

Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Recommendations for growth monitoring, and prevention and management of overweight and obesity in children and youth in primary care. CMAJ April 7 2015;187(6). http://www.cmaj.ca/content/187/6/411

Schmitt, B. Happy Customers Everywhere: How your business can profit from from the insights of positive psychology. MacMillan 2011.

Meier A and K Musick. Variation in Associations Between Family Dinners and Adolescents Well-Being. Center for Population Research, University of California, 2013. http://papers.ccpr.ucla.edu/papers/PWP-CCPR-2012-011/PWP-CCPR-2012-011.pdf

Thompson Coon, J. et al. Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 110203115102046 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102947t

Statistics Canada, Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007 to 2009. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2011001/article/11553-eng.htm

New Canadian Guidelines for Obesity in Children Must Focus on Family, Medical Press, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-canadian-guidelines-obesity-children-focus.html