Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Family Behavior Plays Role in Childhood Obesity

In some ways, this topic is a big "Duh." Of course family habits impact the health of the child. But as someone who struggles with my weight, I know that solving that problem is easier said than done. Plus, even as I struggle with my weight, I want to keep my child from having the same problems.

The Washington Post recently ran Slimming Down: It's a Family Affair, an article about how family habits impact childhood obesity. The overriding theme is: If one person - especially a child - has a weight problem, then everybody needs to change their habits. Here's a line that stuck out for me:
"Parents need to remember that "your habits are their habits," Hassink says. So let your children see you snacking on a bag of carrots, rather than a bag of Fritos.

That's what kills me about my own weight problem and why I so want to get a handle on it. My husband and I were always thin as children and then one day - boom - we both had a weight problem. We want our child to have a healthy-weight childhood, but also learn habits that will keep her healthy over her lifetime. Clearly, our parents controlled our environment without teaching us much about managing our weight. On the other hand, we both also thought we could eat anything and stay thin. We were wrong, but we were also at a loss on how to become healthy without starving to death. For me, hunger is the death of a weight-loss program.

Often, I'll eat bad foods late at night, when I think my daughter won't know. But that's a short-term solution - eventually, she'll be old enough to hear me munching on chips or making numerous trips to the fridge and understand that I'm eating late at night. Or she'll catch me.

My weight loss history is a long, sorted mess of a story, but my most recent effort is to work with an internist who specializes in weight loss. She treats obesity by addressing underlying issues of health, such as low serotonine, sleep problems, and insulin-resistance. She also teaches her patients how to eat at regular intervals and meet a certain number of carbs at every snack and meal so your body knows it has plenty of energy and won't trigger overeating. She also gives you an appetite suppressant, which I use occasionally. So far, it's working.

The Post article offers suggestions on changing habits as a family - including turning off the TV. But here's a simple thing you can do that's not mentioned: Make sure your child gets enough sleep. A recent London study found a link between inadequate sleep and obesity in children. Doctors also believe sleep and weight problems are linked in adults, which is why my doctor is sending me for a sleep study.

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