While they might not realize it, parents play a huge role in their children’s eating
and exercise habits. Kids are still spending most of their time at home and eating
most meals at home. Parents buy and prepare food, and decide what and how
much kids can eat. They are responsible for providing opportunities for children
to be active and can set rules for TV and video game use.
With obesity increasingly becoming a critical medical problem in children, parents
need to step up to the plate. In the United States, a whopping 17 percent of
children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese, as per the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, but mom and dad, don’t fret.
According to a study recently published in medical journal Pediatrics, diet and
exercise programs with parental involvement, parent and child centered program,
are the best way to help kids stay trim and fit.
The study involved 165 overweight children between ages 6 to 10 years old, who
were randomly assigned to one of three interventions: a diet program taught to
parents by dietitians that focused on goal setting, problem solving and positive
reinforcement from parents; an activity program for kids taught by physical
education teachers, with parents taking part early on and encouraged to do more
at home with their kids; and a combination of the two programs, with parents and
children both participating.
Children in all three groups reduced their body mass index and waist
circumference after two years, with the diet program and the combination
program yielding better results than the activity program.
Therefore, parents' input might actually be necessary to see results. They can
be trained to be effective agents of change where management of obesity in
children is concerned. After the study, parents reported feeling more comfortable
saying "no" to their children's demands, setting limits on the type of food the
children could eat, limiting the amount of time they spent watching TV or playing
video games, and establishing consequences for breaking the rules.
This study shows that interventions that target parents alone may be an effective
and non-stigmatizing strategy for achieving effective weight loss in obese
children. Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right’s child and parent centered program
utilizes this strategy, and enables parents and children to make the right food
choices and have fun eating healthy, wholesome meals. Power to the parents -
you can do it!
Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. is a pediatrician and child obesity specialist. Her book, Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, was published by Rodale in December, 2009 and is available on Amazon.