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FIRST-PERSON: Raising healthy children

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–According to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, 15.5 percent of 12-19 year olds are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is rising at a rate that parallels the adult population. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 60 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight of obese.

Childhood obesity is causing a myriad of health problems including high blood pressure, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol and joint pain that were once only experienced by adults. Importantly, if we don’t address this issue with our children now, statistically, they will become obese or overweight adults.

This is a very serious issue for the whole family, and parents have a responsibility to help their children to grow, mature and develop disciplined habits. Consider the following suggestions for establishing healthy habits for yourself and your children.

1. Pray for your children. Ask God to guide your steps as you parent through this challenging period of growth. Pray for personal strength as you set a healthy example in your personal choices.

2. Evaluate and educate yourself. Take a look at your own habits. Do you choose healthful foods and regularly exercise? Your habits are passed to your children. Educate yourself on healthy food choices and living an active lifestyle. Be diligent to set a positive lifestyle example in your home.

3. Set limits and boundaries. Limit time spent on sedentary activities like watching TV or playing computer games to one hour or less per day. One study found that the metabolism is slower while watching TV than sleeping. Set limits on the types of food that will enter your home. If chips, cookies, ice cream and other processed empty foods are around they will be consumed. Set limits on the number of times your family eats in fast food restaurants. Make cooking healthful meals at home a priority.

4. Provide healthy food. Avoid having foods that are off limits to one person and fair game for another. Junk foods are of little or no benefit to anyone no matter what a person weighs. Consider making healthful snacks easy to choose. Provide fresh fruit and vegetables, non-fat yogurt and light popcorn for snacking. Involve your older children in menu planning and cooking. Include lean portions of meat, whole grain side dishes, and lots of vegetables and fruit with lunch and dinner meals. Provide whole grain cereals and bread, skimmed milk, peanut butter, fruit and juice for a quick, healthy breakfast. Your discipline as a parent with the foods you choose will directly impact the success your child has in developing healthful eating habits.

5. Encourage action. Turn the TV off and go for evening walks or bike rides as a family. Play a team sport. Sign up for dance lessons. Swim. Take hikes. All of these fun activities increase physical fitness and burn extra calories. The more fun movement you encourage, the more your child’s health will improve.

6. Avoid strict or extreme diets. Children and younger teens are still growing and physically maturing. Strict and extreme diets may deprive your child of vital nutrients needed to continue developing. Focus on creating healthy habits and let God control their growth. If a specific eating plan is necessary, consult a professional dietitian for direction based on your child’s needs. Avoid rewarding or punishing with food. God designed our bodies to require food for fuel to function. Establish other incentives for good work or behavior. Establish other penalties for disciplinary measures.

7. Set a good example in word and deed. Avoid degrading yourself if you need to lose weight. Your child looks to you as a life example and learns even when you don’t know it. Your children love you exactly as you are and when you use negative words about your health or appearance, they personalize it. Use your wellness journey as a model for how a godly family will live. Show your children that we can all make improvements and trust God to help us, strengthen us, and walk with us along the way.
Branda Polk is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and wellness coach in Memphis, Tenn.

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  • Branda Polk