Preventing and treating childhood obesity/ inactivity requires the entire family. Children can't change their exercise and eating habits by themselves. They need the help and support of their families and other caregivers ( School, FITKIDS). This is why successful prevention and treatment of childhood obesity starts at home.

PARENTS OF AUSTRALIA

AUSTRALIAN KIDS NEED YOU! TO STAND UP AND LEAD BY EXAMPLE

 

There are numerous theories as to why children ( 25% in Australia) are overweight and inactive.

  • More families with children under 15 have both parents working (43%, the most common family dynamic)
  • In Australia there is evidence of a decline in walking and cycling for transport among children
  • Physical education is being dramatically reduced throughout schools in Australia. Most children receive less than 1 hour of physical education each week!
  • TV and Computer usage is at an all time high. Children are averaging more than 3 hours of Television each weekday. The average child spends more time each year watching television then they do at school and they spend over 600% more time watching television than exercising!!!
  • Backyards are getting smaller, and parks are becoming less safe avenues for kids to play.
  • People and children avoid situations that cause pain. Potential embarrassment through incompetence in competitive sport is a large de-motivator.
  • Processed foods are more prevalent – highly refined carbohydrate snacks and meals are the ultimate activity de-motivator.

 

While these are all extremely viable, researched reasons, the below fact cannot be ignored

 

  • Kids learn by imitation….. Parents are exercising less and weighing more. If Mum and Dad regularly choose poor food choices, never/ rarely exercise and spend their leisure time in front of the television or drinking and smoking, then guess what the kids will imitate….

 

PARENTS, TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR

 

Did you know that 70% of Australian adults are classed as sedentary?

  • What is this saying?
  • If Mum and Dad don’t exercise, why should I?

56% are overweight or obese (although, By 2020, with the current trend in weight gains, 80% of all Australia adults and one third of all children will be overweight or obese”.)

  • It is very hard to change your child’s eating and activity habits when they resemble your own…. (children are great mimics and learn through imitation) Nobody likes being a hypocrite and for most overweight/sedentary adults, it is sometimes easier to ignore the facts rather than face reality.
  • Children don’t use their pocket money to fill the fridge and pantry each week.
  • The are many reasons why many parents stack their houses with high fat, high sugar, nutrient deficient snacks ( low cost, ease of distribution, lack of nutritional knowledge, letting kids dictate their shopping list, personal cravings or emotional needs, habit, laziness). Just remember though, if it isn’t in the house, it cannot be consumed. If your house only contains healthy, nutritious foods, then you are more than half the way towards winning the war on obesity and inactivity.
  • TV’s don’t come as an accessory to the bedrooms of most houses
  • Kids with televisions in their bedrooms perform significantly lower on standardized tests than their peers.
  • For kids, having a TV in the bedroom is linked to performing worse in school and developing sleeping problems.
  • Placing a TV in your child’s room keeps you from monitoring the amount of TV and the types of shows that they watch
  • Children who have TV’s in their room watch significantly more TV than children without.
  • The more TV a child watches the greater their exposure to violence, alcohol use, dangerous stunts, drug use, sexual activity, prejudice and stereotyping.
  • Water from the tap is cheaper than soft drink, fruit juice and cordial put together.
  • Many parents complain that eating healthy is too expensive. Take soft drinks, high sugar fruit juices, chips, lunch box snacks and biscuits off the shopping list and you will not only lower the cost of your shopping bill, but you will also lower your child’s weight and their risk of future health complications.

 

MAKE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

The below list contains ready to implement strategies for your family. It also includes reasons why and suggestions how you can implement these changes into your families lifestyle.

 


Change:

  • TV TO LESS THAN 2 HOURS PER DAY ( even less is best)

Reduce the amount of TV (including computers/playstation) to 2hrs maximum per day. And especially limit TV during daylight hours.
Set the example for your child and limit the amount of TV you watch.
Don’t use the TV as a distraction or baby-sitter for pre-school children.

Reason:
• Research has shown that children who consistently spend more than 2 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.
• Children who watch TV are more likely to be inactive and tend to snack while watching TV.
• Improvements in BMI have been shown to occur when television viewing is restricted.
• Limiting the time spent watching TV or playing video or computer games encourages children to find other more active pastimes.
• Cutting back on TV is an important first step in attempts to tackle the current epidemic of childhood obesity,?
• TV viewing is actually more strongly associated with an increased BMI (Body Mass Index -Weight compared to height) than diet or activity levels have been reported to be!!!
• TV viewing is probably replacing activities in your child’s life that you would rather have them do (things like playing with friends, physical activity, fresh air, reading, homework, chores, spending time with you).
• TV promotes a sedentary lifestyle and discourages exercise. An inactive life style sets bad habits and leads to poor physical fitness now and down the road.
• Television viewing is positively associated with soft drink and fried food consumption. Children’s metabolisms drop while watching TV. They go into a trance-like hypnotic state. This means that a person would burn fewer calories while watching TV than when just sitting quietly, doing nothing.
 

How To:
• Set a daily limit on television watching
• Keep the TV off during meal times
• Designate certain evenings for special family activities, like a family bike ride or a game night.
• A great rule is 1hour of TV per day during the week, and 3 to 4 hours per day of weekend TV. This frees up more time for family interaction during the busy weekdays. For example, instead of parking the kids in front of the TV while you fix dinner, have them help you cook, or let them tell you about their day.
• Spend your free time reading, exercising, and playing or talking with your child.
• Come up with a family TV schedule. Come up with something the entire family agrees on. Then post the schedule in a visible household area (i.e., on the refrigerator) so that everyone knows which programs are OK to watch and when.
• Use a TV guide or newspaper to decide which shows to watch instead of channel surfing until something gets your interest.
• Teach your child to be media savvy. The media bombards us with images of thin people having fun while eating and drinking high calorie foods. Kids don't necessarily have the cognitive abilities to process this paradox.
 

 

 


Change:

  • MAKE YOUR HOUSE – A 'SOMETIMES FOOD' FREE ZONE

Make sure healthy foods are readily available and remove high calorie, high fat foods from the home. Buy them for treats only occasionally and never buy junk in bulk and store in the pantry or freezer, just enough for one serve each ( so that once it is eaten, there is none left in the house until the next treat time).
Include a wide variety of vegetables in your meals and try to use as many preparation methods as possible to keep meals and snacks interesting.
Have snack foods available that are nutrient dense, unprocessed and delicious

Reason:
• Poor food choices perpetuate poor food choices. Research shows that after a high calorie, refined carbohydrate meal, the next food choice is more likely to be of the same poor nutritional value. 
• Poor food choices perpetuate sedentary lifestyles. Research shows people who regularly eat refined, nutrient deficient foods are less likely to be active and often have lower energy levels, motivation and are more likely to suffer from depression ( This goes for kids too!!!)
• Healthy foods taste great and after the shock of the initial clear out of junk food ( you may have to put up with a few temper tantrums in this stage), once your child gets the taste of real food and their body starts getting the nutrients it desires, they will not look back. Remember it takes 21 days to create or change a habit.
• If a child has an option between a doughnut and an apple, unlike an adult who would weigh up the pros and cons of each, the child will choose the doughnut on most occassions, oblivious to the possible consequences. If there is no parental leadership for the child to learn healthy habits from ( children are great mimicks), left to their own accord, most children would choose to live on lollies and soft drink all day. Your leadership is the key

How To:
• Lead by example and regularly be seen eating fruit or nutritious snacks in front of your kids.
• Invite them to head down to the supermarket and everyone can pick out their favourite fruit for a treat.
• Junk food is fun for an occasional weekly treat so don’t become a nazi either.
• The main problem with having junk food in your fridge/pantry/freezer is that when it is so readily available and regularly dispensed ( snack treat in the lunch box, afternoon tea treat, dessert) Children see it as an acceptable food option.
• Primary school children are reflections of their parents eating habits and lifestyle choices. We can blame all the other reasons in the world for children being overweight, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, it is the parents that put the food on their plate and the parents whose current lifestyle habits are reflected in their children.
• Another reason to remove these foods is because of the nag factor.. Children know too well how to get something they want.. Keep asking until mum gives in. If it is not in the pantry, it won’t go in their stomachs.
• Buy an apple slinky machine and turn apples into FUN
• Keep fruit in the fridge to keep it tasting fresh and crisp
• Low fat dairy is a fantastic way to give kids the calcium they need without skyrocketing their blood sugar levels ( low fat cheese sticks and yoghurt are 2 good choices)
• Start purchasing recipe books with healthy kids snacks in them. Once you have made them once or twice, preparing healthy snacks is not so scary, in fact they are usually so easy, the kids can help.
• Freeze banana’s with a stick through the middle to make healthy iceblocks.
 

 

Change:

  • NEVER MISS BREAKFAST

Ensure a healthy breakfast is eaten every day. So what is a healthy breakfast?
Choose healthy breakfast options that will improve your child’s concentration, mood, energy, motivation, endurance and even help them to choose/want healthy foods for their next meal ( when compared to other breakfast option)

Reason:
• Research confirms that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
• Children who have breakfast perform better at school, and are less likely to be irritable during the first part of the day. In addition, they are less likely to suffer from mineral and vitamin deficiencies such as Iron, Calcium and B-Vitamins.
• A number of studies suggest that children who skip breakfast tend to be fatter than those who don’t.

How To:
• Eat breakfast yourself. And eat it with your children. Many parents say they are too rushed in the mornings to eat themselves. Set some clear ground rules together with your children and stick to them. 
• Get involved with your child at breakfast. Have a list of 3 or 4 healthy breakfast options on the fridge at any one time. They choose what they want to have and they make it under your supervision.
• Don’t be a parent that does everything for their children. Children learn by doing and although it may take a little longer and their may be a little (or a lot) more mess, the rewards will come back on you 10 fold. Encourage them to be inventive and support their creativity. IE “Mum, instead of adding a banana to my cereal today, I am going to cut up some apple slices”, Mum says “ wow darling, that sounds great I might put some apple slices on my cereal too”.

 


Change:

  • DINNER TIME IS FAMILY TIME

Eat dinner together without the TV on, and try to make dinner last 30 min or more

Reason:
• Participation in family dinners leads to higher intakes of fruits, vegetables and calcium rich foods in children.
• Families that do not eat together tend to consume more fried foods and soda and less fruits and veggies than families that share meals.
• TV Undermines Family Time
• Many people feel that they do not have enough time to spend with their families.
• In fact, according to a Newsweek poll, even 73 percent of teens would like to spend more time with their parents.
• Although often overlooked, television plays a crucial role. In the average American household, the TV is on for 7 hours, 40 minutes a day.
• 40 percent of Americans report always or often watching television while eating dinner. What’s more, most family members watch different programs in separate rooms.
• Families who watch little or no television, on the other hand, often find that they have more time to spend with one another in more engaging and interactive activities

How To:
• Create the ground rule with your children that when dinner is served, everyone ( including both parents) comes to the table for an evening meal ( work is no exception).
• Decide together on a fair consequence for failing to comply with this house rule.
• Lead by example by asking each kid about their day, offering insights into your day and making this time together a valuable experience. Talk about healthy lifestyle practices IE I went for a great walk in my lunchbreak at work today, what did you kids get up to?”, “Dave was whinging about having no energy today, I told him that if he is going to eat McDonalds for breakfast he has to expect to have poor energy levels”
• Have a regular “TOP 2” list where everyone in the family has a chance to take centre stage and to talk about 2 experiences they had during the day that were really great or made them smile.

 

 

Change:

  • MAKE FITNESS A FAMILY AFFAIR

Don't just tell your kids to go play. Play with them!
Organize family outings that involve physical activity

Reason:
• Studies show that children are more likely to be active if their parents or siblings are active. Find an activity that the whole family can enjoy together
• If mom and dad exercise, it's a very powerful stimulus for a child to exercise,
• There are few more rewarding experiences in life than exercising with your children.
• When your child looks back on their youth when they are older these are the positive experiences they will remember the most.
• Exercising together creates mutual interests and helps create life long habits for kids. IE IF they love hanging with dad and every time dad and the child get together for quality time they drink soda (dad has beer) and watch football together, the child will associate drinking soda and watching TV with happy emotions and a positive experience. If dad and the child go kick the ball in the park and dad only wants water ‘because it helps you to kick for longer’, the child will associate being active as positive and will drink water by the gallon loads ( as long as dad is consistent with his water consumption)
• Kids idolize their parents. Having their dad/mum run with them at the park, timing them to run through a circuit of trees, receiving praise for their fitness or speed etc, will only further encourage them to stay active.

How To:
• Have a set day of the week or fortnight that is family outing day. This is time that must be put aside in everyone’s diary ( just like a business appointment) to be accountable. Make sure that whatever the activity, it must include being active and getting the heart rate moving.
• Give the kids control - Let each child take a turn choosing the activity of the day or week. Set restrictions and ground rules before hand IE the outing must cost less than $20.
• If your child is artistically inclined, go on a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks that your child can use to make a collage. If your child likes to climb, head for the nearest neighborhood jungle gym or climbing wall. If your child likes to read, then walk or bike to the neighborhood library for a book.
• Plan your family vacations around physical activities — hiking, biking, skiing, snorkeling, swimming or camping. Take along a ball or Frisbee disc to sneak in some activity at rest stops
• Enroll your child in a structured activity that he or she enjoys, such as tennis, FITKIDS, Nippers etc and create a mutual interest (IE you can play tennis with your child, you can help your child with their FITKIDS homework, you can go to the beach and catch waves with your child)
• Apart from whole family outings, spend time with each individual child in a physical activity they enjoy or you feel they may enjoy. In a family of 5, if a child gets quality time with one parent doing something together, that experience will be more motivating than any other. Plant the seed during these days, water it with interest (questions), encouragment and praise in the following weeks, and watch it grow. If your child was previously inactive, you will find their interest in being active will skyrocket.
 

 

Change:

  • REWARD THE EFFORTS OF YOUR CHILDREN

Make healthy changes in your own lifestyle and Reward the Successful Changes of your children.

Reason:
• Rewards for successful behavior changes keep your family motivated and more inclined to stick to the plan. Make a list of how your family has succeeded in changing certain eating and activity habits. Then celebrate your success. Rewards should be consistent with the goal and be given regularly, such as on a weekly or monthly basis.
• Celebrating progress can be as simple as offering your child praise and attention, or it could be more involved.
• Planning an activity the family likes to do together, such as family picnic in the park or swimming, is a good option.
• Never promise a reward and fail to deliver. This is a certain de-motivator.
• Don't use food as a reward or punishment, however. You might unintentionally lay the groundwork for food-related power struggles.

How To:
• Praise your child for healthy food choices and physical activity. Remember: criticism and punishment just don’t work.
• Examples of different rewards are:
• Daily – Praise your child for following one of the families goals on their own accord
• Weekly – Do one of your child’s chores to congratulate their dedication
• Monthly – a family day at the park, or beach – involve activity together
• The best way to get your child on board with the new, active lifestyle is to commit to the changes yourself. Your actions teach your child what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat. You also encourage your child to be physically active every day if you make it a priority yourself. Ever heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”?
• Set short-term goals for changes in your child’s (and your own) diet and exercise on a weekly basis. Update your goals each week. Write them down. An example of a first week goal is: Setting a time limit on TV watching OR Agreeing to take a family walk every night after dinner
 

 

 

 

Change:

  • CULTIVATE A LOVE FOR HEALTHY FOODS IN CHILDREN

Plan times when you prepare foods together.
Children enjoy participating and can learn about healthy cooking and food preparation.

Reason:

  • Those that can… do. Those that can’t…. eat junk food. ( cook that is)
  • Achievement is a great way to build a child’s love of anything ( everyone loves to do something they feel they are good at) And on the other end of the spectrum, one of the main reasons we find why kids don’t like being active is a perceived lack of ability/ competence. NOBODY enjoys being incompetent.
  • Making or cooking something gives children a feeling of achievement.
  • If you can teach a child how to make a quick healthy snack that they actually love to eat and make, then you are well on the way to encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.

How To:

  • Kids learn by imitating. Let your children see you preparing, eating and enjoying nutritious foods and they'll do the same.
  • Don't make junk food off limits, but don't make it so readily available. Never buy junk in bulk and store in the pantry or freezer, just enough for one serve each ( so that once it is eaten, there is none left in the house until the next treat time).
  • Serve balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, fruits and milk for growing bodies, and keep an ample supply of healthy snacks on hand. With children, presentation is everything. If healthy food looks good, they'll be more inclined to try it.
  • When shopping or at home, quiz kids on which is the healthier option, and what do you think the unhealthy option would do to your energy levels etc etc.

 

 

Change:

  • GIVE REGULAR FAST FOOD AND REFINED SNACKS THE FLICK

Limit the frequency of fast-food eating to no more than once per week. And refrain from including unhealthy treats every day in their school lunches.

Reason:
• You will understand the reason, when you see a whole new personality emerge. Less tantrums, more stable moods, increased attention spans and ability to concentrate, increased desire to run and play, and big smiling faces!!
• Refined, highly processed foods are the ultimate activity de-motivator

How To:
• If you want to give them a treat or reward, give them some extra attention at home, involve yourself in one of their interests, arrange an active time for the both of you.
• Parents often give food rewards/treats as an expression of love ( it is easier and more time efficient than actually showing Love). Sadly this sets up a negative association between food and reward that can become a strong lifetime pattern

 

 

 

Change:

  • INSTILL CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM THROUGH ENCOURAGEMENT

Reason:

  • A parents prime purpose is to raise independent, self reliant, happy people. The key to this is encouragement.
  • Children with positive self images are not deterred by failure. They are willing to try new things and accept change.
  • Children gain their self esteem from those around them. Parents act as mirrors. If you let a child know through your words and actions that he is stupid, then he will grow up believing that he isn’t worth much.
  • It is so important for children to have someone they value believe in them.

How To:

  • Have realistic expectations – If you expect to much of a childthey will become discouraged when they can’t reach your aspirations. Parents expectations should be aimed just above children’s current abilities rather than where adults want them to be.
  • Give responsibility – children love being given responsibility – It sends them a message that “ I believe that you can do this”
  • The keys to encouraging your child are:
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Give children responsibility
  • Value risk taking. Show them that mistakes are a part of learning and improving. Children need to be able to mess up without feeling they will be ridiculed.
  • Teach them new skills -
  • Look for strengths – parents need to focus on what children can do rather than their deficiencies. Children will only improve in any behaviour or skill if they are confident that they can succeed. Continual criticism will only erode confidence
  • Catch them being good – Parents are experts at “ catching children being bad”. It is far more useful to focus attention on childrens positives. Children are more likely to adopt behaviours that meet approval if they gain positive attention for these actions
  • Emphasize the activity – encouragement should emphasize the activity rather than the result of the activity. Focus on participation rather than the result because a we know the more they participate the more they will improve. If you discourage their efforts by pointing out their lack of results etc, you child will not improve or continue to enjoy the activity.
  • Encouragement has a snowball effect. The more you give, the greater the benefits.

 

 


Change:

  • DRINK 8 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY

All family members should be aiming to drink 8 glasses of water per day. Soft drinks, juices and energy drinks should be only consumed as a treat ( IE Once a week maximum)

Reason:

  • Ensuring your family is well hydrated is almost the most important ( and easy) lifestyle change you can make.

How To:

  • Drink water regularly yourself and when given the option, choose to have water in front of your kids over other drinks.
  • This will cost money but is one of the best ways to increase water consumption. Purchase a home water cooler for your family.
  • If you have any soft drink in your fridge, pantry etc GET RID OF IT. They are for occasional treats ( once a week or once a fortnight), there is no need to keep occasional treats in bulk in your home, it sends the wrong message to your kids.
  • Allow your kids to experience how great water is! This is very hard to do, when there are high sugar options like fanta, pepsi, orange juice available as well. Of course water will seem like a poorer cousin if kids have a choice.
  • Take your kids shopping for a water bottle each (you too). They get to choose the design ( IE Spiderman), and they are responsible for taking it with them. Have one that doesn’t leave the house and one for going out.
  • The one for the house should be with them at all times. Give the water bottle a name (IE Spiderman) Regularly quiz them on where Spiderman is, and how many times have you filled him up today?
  • Take the FITKIDS water lecture quiz today!! 

 


REVIEW

Jus tot recap, the Best ways to lead by example and ensure your child develops healthy lifestyle habits that will keep them from becoming another obesity statistic later in life are:


1. TV TO LESS THAN 2 HOURS PER DAY
2. YOUR HOUSE – A JUNK FREE ZONE.
3. NEVER MISS BREAKFAST
4. DINNER TIME IS FAMILY TIME
5. MAKE FITNESS A FAMILY AFFAIR
6. REWARD THE EFFORTS OF YOUR CHILDREN
7. CULTIVATE A LOVE FOR HEALTHY FOODS IN CHILDREN
8. GIVE FAST FOOD AND REFINED SNACKS THE FLICK (especially at home)
9. INSTILL CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM THROUGH ENCOURAGEMENT
10. DRINK 8 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY


So Remember:

  • Obesity and inactivity are not just your child’s problem. It is a problem that the whole family must be involved in solving. Your child lives within your family environment.
  • Chances are, someone else in your family has also struggled with weight or experienced obesity. They may be able to offer valuable help and support in developing realistic goals for your child.
  • Be a positive role model:
  • Remember the old adage: “Kids will do as you do, not as you say”? Your kids look to you, the parents, to see how to behave. If your whole family eats healthy foods and gets active, and then your child will, too!

 

FEEL LIKE YOU NEED SOME HELP TO CHANGE YOURSELF FIRST?