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FIRST-PERSON: Train up a child for good health

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Childhood obesity is increasing at alarming rates in our nation. Many of these children are now at risk for diseases that were once thought of as only for adults.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This verse speaks to all areas of life. Teaching healthy habits by example will start children on the path toward healthy years later in life.

Here are a few tips I use with my children to keep them on a healthy, fit lifestyle track and develop quality lifelong habits:

1. Educate yourself. Begin to learn as much as you can about healthy food choices and living an active lifestyle. The “Fit 4: A LifeWay Christian Wellness Plan” is a great, easy-to-use resource that can help you learn how to make wise choices for yourself and your family. For more information about Fit 4, go to www.fit4.com.

2. Provide healthy snacks. Most children love carrots or other vegetables with some kind of dip. Portion the raw vegetables into small zip-top bags. Use clean plastic film containers to store serving sizes of dip. Allow your child to help select the flavor of dip they prefer. Choose “light” varieties over “fat-free” varieties, since children usually don’t like the “fat-free” flavor, and monitor the portion size. Another mother told me she made a double batch of the snack mix found in the Fit 4 Wise Choices Cookbook and stored it in individual servings in zip-top bags and her children loved it.

3. Encourage action. Play tag in the backyard. Go to the park to play in the evenings. Go for evening walks or bike rides as a family. Purchase and learn to use roller blades. Play a team sport. All of these are fun activities that children love and it helps both the adult and the child burn extra calories. Try to work the after-school schedule to include a 30-minute play break before homework. Do something active like jumping rope, riding bikes, playing hopscotch or bouncing a ball. The more fun movement you encourage, the more your child’s health will improve.

4. Limit sedentary activities like watching TV or playing computer games. These two things are the worst problem for children with weight issues. Often both involve snacking and sitting.

5. Avoid mentioning diets or weight loss to your child. Each child has a unique growth pattern. Some children grow tall and then “fill out.” Others gain weight and then get taller. There is nothing you can do about the pattern of your child’s growth. So, focus on encouraging healthy habits and let God do the rest.

6. Allow occasional treats when you are away from home. At our house, we rarely have dessert, high-sugar snacks, chips or sodas around. These are only a part of our lifestyle at certain times. When you have these things away from the home, your child will begin to see these as special but not a part of your regular lifestyle.

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. She loves you exactly as you are and when you use negative phrases about your health or appearance, she immediately equates that to herself. Use your wellness journey as a model for how a godly family will live. Show your child 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 personal fitness trainer, wellness coach and the Fit 4 coordinator at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, TN. For more information about Fit 4, visit the www.fit4.com website.

    About the Author

  • Branda Polk