Ten Tips To Help Overweight Kids Get Healthy
Bags of Halloween candy are piled high in the grocery stores this week, providing a dangerous temptation for those battling obesity. For the parents of overweight children, getting their children to understand the dangers of overindulging after trick-or-treating can be even more difficult.
San Diego State University Exercise and Nutritional Sciences professor David Kahan, offers ten ways to help parents -- and teachers -- get overweight kids back on track, not just after Halloween, but for the rest of their life, in his new book "Supersized P.E."
"Being physically active every day is especially crucial for children struggling with weight issues," said Kahan, a physical education teacher and researcher. "Overweight and obese youth carry social, psychological and emotional burdens that often lead to anger, despair and ultimately, a sedentary lifestyle. Our goal is to help youth love physical activity."
Supersized P.E. is designed to help parents, physical educators and leaders of physical activity programs to better understand the physical, emotional and psychological issues that reduce the overweight child's quality of life and help them learn how to be physically active for a lifetime. The book's recommendations include:
1) Set an Example: Be a good role model of overall wellness.
2) Emphasize a Child's Strengths: If it's something they enjoy or are good at, they are much more likely to do it.
3) Foster a Positive Atmosphere that feels safe and inviting, is free of sarcasm, insults and harassment and be a consistent source of comfort and encouragement.
4) Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes: Help them control behaviors and focus on how to change, not the results of changing.
5) Face the Facts: Denial is dangerous. Parents and teachers need to acknowledge when a student seems to be gaining weight or is overweight.
6) Develop a Social Support Network: Find a social niche where an overweight child is with others who share the same positive attitudes toward physical activity and health or at least support the child's needs and intentions.
7) Avoid the Spotlight: Overweight children should not be placed in situations in which their physical performance is on display for all to see and critique. It is better to offer physical activity settings in which the overweight child can blend in and work at his or her own pace/level.
8) Get a Doctor's Advice: Physical education programs that report a child's body mass index (BMI) may inadvertently trigger parental overreaction and undue stress on an overweight child. Parents should consider having their overweight child assessed by his or her pediatrician before undertaking an intervention.
9) Nutrition is Key: Educate young people how to make smart food choices. Teach overweight children about serving sizes, how to select low-fat snacks and how to recognize when they are full.
10) Reduce Screen Time: The numbers tell the story, during the average 3.47 daily hours a 100-pound child spends engaged in screen-based media (t.v., computer, video games) he or she burns 166 calories, contrasted with swimming (666), walking the dog briskly (687), playing half-court basketball (937), hiking (957), etc.
Kahan said another crucial part of addressing this major societal issue is for parents to actively petition local schools to take a larger role in helping students meet fitness goals.
"That is why it is critically important for all parents to demand their children participate in quality physical education and physical activity programs, and get a minimum of 60 minutes of daily physical activity."
Kahan said the challenge is much greater than how to lose weight, but rather, how to help youth balance nutrition and daily physical activity.
Kahan also runs SDSU's Hardy Elementary School P.E. program, which brings SDSU students studying to become physical education teachers onto the playground to interact and help young students meet their physical fitness goals.
"Teaching this increasingly prevalent population can be a joy as well as a challenge," Kahan said. "For teachers to really help address the obesity problem they must understand what life is like for an overweight student and how they can create a positive attitude about physical activity."
Kahan said it is important that teachers, coaches, school nutrition directors, nurses, administrators, parents and community leaders all work in a coordinated effort to put good health and well-being as a top, lifelong priority for today's children and youth.
"Supersized P.E.: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Teaching Overweight Students," coauthored by Josh Trout, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Chico, is available through the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).