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Pediatric Fitness: How We Can Work Together to Help Kids

Pediatric Fitness

Pediatric Fitness: How We Can Work Together to Help Kids

Pediatric Fitness: Weight of the Nation

HBO and the Institute of Medicine, with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, created a four-part documentary series titled, "The Weight the Nation.“ Part 3 of this series, "Children in Crisis" features the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic and highlights two of our patients and their families.

Watch Part 3: Children in Crisis

How Do We Know if a Child Has a Weight Problem?

Changes in weight are normal as children grow. However, if a child is over the 95th percentile for body mass index, or BMI, the reality is he or she is probably not going to grow out of it. If you're at a well-child check and the BMI is high for your child's age, this is a call to action. It's critical to remember that it's not just a kid issue, and it's not an issue of blame. It takes commitment from everyone in the child's life to try and do something about it.

How to Talk to Your Child About Weight

It's important to frame the conversation in terms of the family. "I think in our family we're eating too many desserts," for example, or, "I think we should be more active as a family." And ask the child how they're feeling about their activity level, or what they're eating. Often kids are more aware than we give them credit for. Also, encourage kids to be thoughtful about why and what they're eating. Are they bored? Thirsty? And how do they feel after they've eaten particular foods? Encourage an awareness of the how's and why's of eating.

How to Make Changes

It's unrealistic to suggest drastic changes to lifestyle or eating habits. Instead, consider what's currently in your kitchen cupboards and figure out - are there healthier options out there? Remember that as parents, children look to you as role models. The biggest impact on children's habits comes from watching the adults in their lives. They learn by example. If you want to limit kids' soda consumption, it's best to keep soda out of the house and limit your own consumption of it. As the "nutritional gatekeepers" for the home, parents can make a significant difference just by opting to have healthier options available. And take time to be active as a family. Go for a walk after dinner. Take a hike, play in the snow. Just get active together.

What Can We Do?

Watching a compelling documentary like "Children in Crisis" can leave anyone, but especially parents, feeling overwhelmed and even to a degree, helpless. There are important things to remember. Childhood obesity is an "everybody issue." We all have a part and a responsibility and it's important to do our best. Health starts at home, pick just one thing you can change and make that change. Then next week or next month, pick another thing and before you know it, you'll have made major changes by taking one step at a time.