September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. A more positive approach of communicating this awareness might be titling it as National Awareness -“Let’s Get Healthier for Life” which does not include the term obesity which often carries negative, demeaning social connotation. There is an intended pun in the suggested message “for Life” for a couple reasons. One being “for life” implying for the duration of one’s life. Secondly “for life” implying for one’s physiology to thrive.
Once removing the term obesity, it can be replaced with a host of neutral terms such as body mass index (BMI) or risk for diabetes and heart disease, risk for being less healthy. From there, educating and engaging the patient/family about what Let’s Get Healthier for Life is and talking through how they envision incorporating this into their lifestyle and family environment/dynamic. It’s truly a privilege to have the opportunity to team up with our patient population in this regard.
The following are some BMI tips and references which are some components of Let’s Get Healthier for Life:
- The 5210 Campaign might be something easy for the patient/family to begin with. It is: 5 representing striving for consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, 2 representing limiting leisure/entertainment screen time to 2 hours per day, 1 representing striving for one hour of physical activity per day, and 0 representing striving to consume zero sugary drinks per day
- Reduce added sugars in the diet. Per the American Heart Association: Kids 2-18 years old should have less than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily. (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-recommendation-healthy-kids-and-teens-infographic#:~:text=Kids%20are%202%2D18%20should,Cardiovascular%20Disease%20Risk%20in%20Children)
- Don’t skip breakfast. Per healthychildren.org: Your mother was right; breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Yet almost half of American families regularly skip it. Breakfast has been associated with better memory, better test scores, better attention span, healthier body weights, and improved overall nutrition. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/obesity/Pages/5-easy-ways-to-improve-your-familys-eating-habits.aspx)
- Food portioning. Overeating can contribute a less healthy BMI. The plate method is a useful tool for many in helping portion foods to help maintain a healthy BMI. More information about MyPlate and food portioning can be found at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/MyPlate.aspx and https://www.healthychildren.org/english/healthy-living/nutrition/pages/portions-and-serving-sizes.aspx
- Eat meals together as a family. Per healthychildren.org: Eating meals together can help everyone eat healthier, is a fun way to explore new foods together, and a great time for family conversations! (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/obesity/Pages/5-easy-ways-to-improve-your-familys-eating-habits.aspx)
- Keep family meals media-free. Per healthychildren.org: Eating in front of screen can lead to overeating. Meal time is an important time for family conversations and sharing the day’s experiences without mediagetting in the way. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/obesity/Pages/5-easy-ways-to-improve-your-familys-eating-habits.aspx)
For additional articles and approaches, please go to https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/obesity/Pages/default.aspx. And, I’m always grateful for Nutrition referrals.
–Ronald Lund, CFHC Registered & Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist