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Women's Health

Make Fitness and Nutrition Your Family Resolution

SMART Tips to Make 2010 a Get Healthy Year

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January 01, 2010
With the calendar turned toward a new year, many people are resolving to do something more (exercise more) or less (eat less chocolate) or better (be more disciplined). After all, a new year brings a fresh start. But resolutions often fizzle out before they really get started because you don't have anyone to keep you accountable and make sure you're sticking to your commitment. This is especially true with resolutions to get fit, eat better and attain an all-around Healthy lifestyle. That's why a buddy system is so important. And with families, you have a built-in buddy (or buddies!) system.

This January, consider setting nutrition and fitness goals as a family and make it a real team effort. And in the midst of making health a priority, you'll make something else a priority: family time.

"Families who are exercising and getting active together, or shopping for meals together, are spending more time together—that's sometimes difficult in today's busy world," says Lori Walton, RN, BSN, a pediatric weight management coordinator with Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

Setting goals for life

In her position, Walton oversees the hospital's L.I.F.E. (Lifetime Individual Fitness & Eating) for Kids program (lifeforkids.stvincent.org), a weight management program geared toward children and adolescents and their families. She works with families to set individual and family goals to eat healthier foods and become physically active. Families enrolled in the program receive a minimum of 15 sessions (over a one-year period) with a member of their multidisciplinary team, which consists of physicians, dietitians, behavioral therapists, an exercise physiologist and nurse.

"Families participating in this program are surrounded by supporters. The family is cheering and nudging each other along on a daily basis. Then, they meet with someone from L.I.F.E. every couple of weeks to give them an extra boost and help them develop a plan for healthier choices. We base these plans on the individual needs, abilities and interests within the family," she shares.

Walton says goal setting is a continual part of the program. Nutrition and activity-based goals are set at the end of each meeting. For example, to increase vegetable or calcium intake, a goal may be to eat two cups of vegetables a day or drink three glasses of milk a day.

"It all depends on what a person is currently doing and where they need to be. We set manageable goals to gradually move them along," Walton explains.

And if the child needs to eat better, the parents' goal may be to make access to such foods easier. "It's much easier to grab a bag of chips than cut up celery or carrots. But if those things are readily available and prepared, a child will be more willing to change their eating habits," she said.

The same is true with physical activity—it's much more likely to happen if the whole family is participating. A family may have a beginning goal to take a 10-minute walk after dinner, three times a week. By the end of the yearlong program, walks will be much longer or frequent, or maybe the family will run together instead of walk.

Once a family team hits the halfway mark, they begin setting longer-term goals to work toward as well. Whereas the smaller goals help the children and family build up accomplishments – and the confidence to keep going – the longer-term goals give them something bigger to strive for.

Following the playbook

There are other community resources to help you achieve your nutrition and fitness goals. Last year, Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning and St.Vincent launched Project 18, a community- and school-based program aimed at helping kids maintain a healthy weight and develop good eating and exercise habits. The project, named for Manning's football jersey number, offers an 18-week health and wellness curriculum focused on the areas of nutrition, physical activity and holistic health.

And parents needing help buying the right foods can follow Down the Aisle. Part of Project 18, the new program tags 600-plus healthy food choices at all Marsh supermarkets.

Taking it one goal at a time

If the idea of setting goals seems overwhelming, Walton advises taking it in small steps. "Don't feel like you have to change everything all at once," she said. "Set a pace that works. The greater goal is to develop habits that can be maintained for a lifetime."

Need some ideas for getting healthy? Visit lifeforkids.stvincent.org for a list of Project 18 healthy habits that are sure to get you a touchdown.

L.I.F.E. for Kids has two locations: Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent Indianapolis and Carmel. Contact (317) 338-CARE or LIFE@stvincent.org for more information.

Be SMART in your goal setting

If you want to set goals that you'll stick with, make sure your goals are SMART:

Specific: All goals should have a specific behavior that is targeted. For example, a behavior-specific goal may be eating four servings or more of vegetables six of the next seven days.

Measurable: All goals should be quantifiable to determine if the goal was accomplished.

Attainable: Goals should be challenging yet realistic enough that they can be achieved most of the time.

Reason/Reward: If you identify why the goal is important, you will be more likely to stick with it. A reward may be motivating as well.

Timeframe: Having an ending date for goals allows you to assess your progress and set new goals that are important to you, or modify them if you are unable to accomplish them in the original time frame.

Tags: Health

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