Employee & Community Health

Work as a team to tackle obesity

11/6/2017 by Rose Prissel, MS, RDN, LD

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When parents and their children hear the news from their care team that they may be overweight or obese, it's essential for their current and future health to make changes in the family's lifestyle. This includes becoming more active and making healthier food choices. And you can do it! Family teamwork is the best path to success in developing healthy habits. 

A healthy lifestyle is important for people of all shapes and sizes. And it starts with parents. Children form their ideas about a healthy lifestyle by watching their parents' behavior rather than listening to "advice" from them or others. 

So how can your family work as a team to tackle obesity? Here are some tips to make this happen: 

The same rules apply to everyone. That means adopting the same eating and exercise habits across your family. Allowing one child to eat whatever they want while putting restrictions on another might cause that child to feel bad or singled out. Healthy living is not about losing weight when it is needed, but also about adopting a routine with lifelong benefits. 

If it's not healthy for everyone in the house, don't buy it. It's easier to say "no" once to juice, soda, unhealthy snacks and sugary cereals when you're at the grocery store than to say "no" all the time at home. Not buying - and removing - unhealthy foods from your home puts the responsibility on you to make good choices for your kids. Packing lunch for school or work can help everyone learn what makes up a healthy midday meal. Turn it into a family ritual after dinner. It's a natural time to talk about healthy food choices so kids adopt them when they're on their own. 

Eat as a family. Eating together can be so beneficial, allowing families to bond and taking kids (and parents) away from the distractions of cell phones and tablets. Family meals don't always need to be dinner. Your together time could be breakfast before everyone rushes off for their day. Set aside at least one weekend meal to eat - and maybe even prepare - together. 

Exercise together. Many families think they need to go to the gym to lose weight, but this doesn't have to be the case. Think about playing an active game such as kickball, tag or touch football; shooting baskets; going roller skating; entering a 5K walk and training together. Kids should have one hour of vigorous exercise (something that makes you sweat) a day. 

Sometimes this isn't feasible, and if you haven't been active, it may mean working your way up to that one-hour goal. Even small steps toward a more-active lifestyle, such as walking to school instead of taking transportation or riding your bike for a few minutes a day, gets you and your team on track to tackle obesity. 

Go Team Family!

Rose Prissel, MS, RDN, LD, is a dietician at Mayo Clinic working in pediatric and adult nutrition, with a focus on preventive care, sports nutrition and weight management.