Healthy Weight Management is a Family Affair

In a recent five-year study* involving 4,400 families and more than 7,000 children, researchers from University College London found that children whose parents were in a healthy weight range were twice as likely to also fall within a healthy weight range.  Similarly, children whose parents were overweight or obese were in turn much more likely to be overweight or obese.

And it’s these children – the ones carrying a significant amount of extra weight – who are most at risk of developing serious physical complications, including high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, asthma, and sleep disorders.

So now that we have verifiable proof that apples really don’t fall far from the tree, why not take this opportunity to introduce them – and plenty of other fruits and vegetables – into your family’s daily routine?

By making healthier food choices and incorporating physical activity into your family’s lifestyle, you’ll not only break the cycle of generational weight gain, but also build stronger family bonds … a win-win situation for both you and your loved ones.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Start out small. Introducing a sudden, dramatic change to your family’s routine – especially given the hectic lifestyle many of us face – can result in resistance and frustration.  To avoid a family revolt, make small, gradual changes that can be slowly assimilated into your new lifestyle.

Make it fun! Let’s face it: children enjoy watching their parents act silly.  So try something new, such as rollerblading, kayaking, and even dancing.  As long as you follow activity-specific safety guidelines, the sky – and silliness factor – is the limit.

Let each child play an active role. Each week, let one child choose a weekend adventure.  Whether their favorite activity is biking, hiking, or just running around with kites, if you let them actively participate in the decision-making process, they’ll be far more likely to truly enjoy – and embrace – physical activity.

Tailor your new lifestyle to your family’s likes and dislikes. It’s a rare child that likes lima beans … or painting sheds.  So be sure to take each family member’s preferences into account before you plan each week’s meals and activities.

Don’t give up. Rome wasn’t built in a day (heck, by most accounts, it took several centuries!), so don’t become discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.  If you keep at it, the long-term results will ensure lifelong health for you and your loved ones.

For additional information on combating childhood obesity, please see the following websites:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional guidance:

The White House’s task force on childhood obesity:

The Mayo Clinic’s information and overview on childhood obesity:

* The Intergenerational Transmission of Thinness,” Katrina L. Whitaker, PhD; Martin J. Jarvis, DSc; David Boniface, PhD; and Jane Wardle, PhD.  Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, October 2011.

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