Tags: Home & Food, Health, Parenting
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A Personal Perspective on Obesity
Encouraging a Healthy Relationship with Food and Fitness
August 01, 2010Obesity is a problem—it has been for generations. Now, it's front and center while being linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and other degenerative diseases. On a plus, however, our culture is becoming more wellness-oriented and conscious about fitness and high-performance in sports, Healthy eating and managing stressors of everyday life.
If education is key to a weight management, the above criteria for a healthy lifestyle might help your family connect on a deeper level. Working together to find a variety of fruits and veggies (and protein) that everyone likes—along with exercise plans that everyone can participate in—will not only increase everyone's health factor, but help your family communicate more effectively. The key to successful healthy meals is having a support system and by keeping your family involved in the menu planning, eating at regular intervals to prevent overeating and keeping an open line of communication will help everyone now and in the future. Setting good examples, such as refusing to buy high fat, high sugar snacks and instead keeping a bowl of apples on the kitchen counter or cut-up celery and carrot sticks in the refrigerator, will prevent everyone from reaching for poor food choices.
I know that managing a proper diet and making time for exercise isn't always easy. On a personal level, I have been for obese most of my life. Though I think "letting go" is a character flaw in myself, I find that a greater flaw would be not accepting myself as a worthy person. I often write in my list of New Year's Resolutions that Weight Watchers is the place for me—and it is. I like the fact that the modern plan includes indulging every now and then on pizza—just count the points and plan your day to allot for it.
I see some fast food chains trying to help people like me by offering real fruit smoothies and yogurt to satisfy that fast food fix. They offer fruits, salads, cottage cheese, frozen low-fat yogurt—even at drive-thru windows. If the options are readily available, it makes healthy-eating much easier for busy families.
Of course, everyone knows that a healthy diet is just one part of the complex plan to stay fit. The Y's are offering every kind of fitness activity you could ever be interested in, including water aerobics, Pilates and yoga. Their fitness centers have trainers who will guide you to the right workout stations and encourage you to stick with it. Remember what I said about a support system? The Y offers support, plus all services are available at the Y for a reasonable family or single membership.
The caution every parent (or friend) must take in trying to support someone who is making healthy diet choices is to make certain that, in doing so, they help their children to maintain a positive self-image. Some dieters see their weight as so gross that the extremes they will go to lose weight leads them to methods that can be physically harmful—even deadly. Eating disorders are hard to treat because most sufferers see themselves as "fat" and "unworthy." It's a mental impression of themselves that those around them are unable to understand. The fact of the matter is that no one is unworthy of being healthy and supporting your children (and family) in their effort to lose weight or remain healthy must absolutely be a positive one. You, as a parent, are the direct line to encouraging a healthy self-image and positive relationship with food. As always, a doctor should be a mentor to those who are truly obese.
One practice that Weight Watchers has that was always helpful to me was to write down what you eat and how much. Some call it the "Bite it-write it" mantra. This habit makes you more responsible for the choices you make. Seeing yourself on paper is far more apt to make you understand that "you are what you eat." I know first hand—food has always affected my mood changes and given me a boost from one activity to the next. But I also acknowledge that putting your fork down and chewing slowly to enjoy your food is also a good habit to acquire.
Weight management is a good thing, but the most important person to acknowledge it is the person who needs to lose weight. Loving parents must encourage healthy eating as often as possible, set a good example and allow the child to come to their own acceptance of the situation. Why do I say this? Because my parents tried to help me by serving me half-portions of the foods I craved—I responded by raiding the refrigerator. (Poor choice, I know, but I wanted the same portion as my siblings. It wasn't my choice to get a half-portion.) By reacting negatively, controlling what only one child eats, not setting a good example or singling them out you will do more detriment than good. A positive attitude, communication and setting examples are the only way to ensure that your child has a healthy relationship with food and exercise. By doing so now, you're truly shaping how they will react to both in the future as adults.
We all want what is best for our children. Encouraging them to do their personal best, providing mutual cooperation, tender-loving care and participating ourselves to encourage their success will shape their lives in ways beyond measure. Please send me your weight loss success stories so we can share them with readers next month. Your success can be an inspiration to others.
In the meantime, remember to pack healthy fruits, veggies and proteins in your child's lunch box, work together to come up with new opportunities to fix healthy meals and enjoy a happy dinner hour and special time to listen to your children talk about school, their classes and friends. Having your child go to bed nourished and loved is bound to produce a more productive student now and a healthier adult in the future.
Barbara Wynne is the founding publisher of Indy's Child Magazine.