Help your kids shape up this summer
Our colleague Irene Maher has a great story here on how to help your kids shape up this summer. As too many parents have found, too much unstructured time can easily lead to lazy days in front of the TV, snacking on junk food, sabotaging the best of intentions. What we too often forget, she notes, is that we parents need to be part of the plan, particularly if your child wants to lose weight.
"The best predictor of long-term success is to have the parents on board. The whole family needs to participate if kids are to lose weight and keep it off," said Michael Bishop, clinical psychologist and executive director of Wellspring Camps, a national chain of residential weight-loss programs for kids and adults.
She's got some great web sites and resources on that story, and her tips include:
Make it a team effort. We are all in this together, setting exampes of how to live a healthy life.
Give it time: Help kids not to expect dramatic results at the scale right away.
Positive motivation works better than preaching. So focus on the fact that it's not just about health, but also about developing better skills, like improving your reaction time, your speed, your power. You'll jump higher, throw farther, kick a ball better. That's the sort of thing they will respond to best.
Goals: Be certain this is your child's goal, and not just yours. Your participation is key, but his is vital.
The game plan:
• Get a good baseline for progress. Check your child's body mass index, a calculation based on height and weight. (There are plenty of them online, such as at allkids.org at Fit4Allkids That will help determine whether your child needs to maintain, gain or lose weight.)
• Next, plan and shop for healthy meals and snacks, being sure to include lots of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and sugar-free beverages — though plain water is best. Enlist your children's participation. Get their opinions on healthy foods they like.
• Draw up a plan for daily physical activity, being sure to pick activities your child enjoys. Video games are okay, as long as they involve activity, such as Dance Dance Revolution and the Wii Fit games. Make a schedule: Decide to get up at a certain time, start each day with a brisk walk, swim after lunch, ride bikes in the evening, etc.
• Try the barter system: In exchange for active household chores such as mowing, sweeping and vacuuming, the kids might earn nonfood rewards like movie tickets, cool T-shirts or fitness gadgets, like a pedometer.
• Using notebooks or smart phones, teach your child to track her daily food intake and exercise. Studies show that's the best way to make lasting change.
• Pledge not to skip meals; don't drink anything with sugar or calories except fat-free milk; eat the fruit rather than drink the juice; look up restaurant menus online and decide before you arrive what you'll order.
• Make exercise unavoidable: Put a stationary bike or treadmill right in front of the TV. The person who's on the machine gets control of the remote. If you have two machines and two people, the person who logged the most steps yesterday (verified by pedometer) gets to choose the channel first.
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Times photo: Julann Baker, 15, works out at Lifestyle Family Fitness recently.