Many parents are desperate to know how to get their kids to be active and, in several cases, to lose weight. Unfortunately, there is no magic remedy for childhood obesity. Many factors contribute to the problem, so we have to attack it from many angles.

The most effective way to control fat is to eat fewer empty calories. Typically, foods that are high in nutritional value, like fruits and vegetables, are low in calories. We pile-on the calories with sweets and fatty foods -- things we can do without. Watch the butter on the green beans, the cheese on the spaghetti, or the juice at breakfast.  Also, pay attention to portions. Being smart about where the calories come from and how many your kids consume are the first lines of defense.

Of course, many think kids and teens are sedentary and consumed with video games and texting. Encourage your kids to be more active. Bear in mind that if your child is overweight, he may not be getting the physical activity you might assume he should in P.E. or recess because of fear or decreased ability. Eliminate exercise barriers by helping your kids find organized activities, or purchase workout videos that are appropriate for children. Even better, participate with them! Go to the track together or plan a trip to walk around the zoo.  Make it a family thing and exercise will feel less like a chore.

Lastly, find out why your child may be overeating. As adults we sometimes eat out of stress. Well, kids do it, too!  Cultivate a healthy relationship with your children and teach them healthy ways to deal with their stress. Also, be sure to encourage them when it comes to weight loss, and never single out your child with a weight issue by allowing your other children to indulge in unhealthy habits.

The most important thing to remember is to be a good example and make it a family goal to be healthy. Set your child up for success by modeling good behaviors. Work out as a family. Eat well as a family. Communicate in healthy ways. Do what you can to make a healthy lifestyle fun!

St. Louis Children’s Hospital offers a 12-session program called Head to Toe that teaches you to make healthy lifestyle changes as a family. If you would like more information, call 314.454.KIDS (5437). Make a change in your future today!


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