(AKA Couch Potatoes Anonymous): The facts

Obesity is one of the growing health risks in America today. Obesity is defined as being over 10% of one’s recommended weight. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it is estimated that between 16 to 33% of American children and adolescents are obese. Children who are obese between the ages of 10 and 13 years old, have an 80% likelihood of becoming obese adults. Obesity increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, trouble sleeping and breathing problems.

Obesity is a family problem

To help our children (and ourselves) I am presenting the following manifesto. Though this is aimed at helping the whole family, many of these tips are helpful for individuals as well.

Join the Families for Healthier Living!

  • Plan and make meals to eat together as a family as much as possible. Eating out a lot, especially fast foods, is the road to ruin for any family wanting to live healthier. A home cooked nutritionally balanced meal is a sure step towards healthier living.
  • eat together, but don’t invite the TV! Use meals as social time. The TV is a bad guest at the healthy table. Eating better includes noticing and enjoying the meal. If we are focused on the tube then we are eating without thinking. If we are not thinking, we are more likely to be overeating.
  • Pay attention to and talk about the nutritional content of the foods you buy and eat. Being more aware of what is in foods, especially calories and fats, and comparing them to other foods helps us make healthier choices.
  • Consider making a rule that all foods are eaten in the kitchen or dining area. A simple rule like this can provide a barrier to snacking and eating whenever the mood strikes us. If we have to make a decision about whether we want to finish a show or get up and sit in the kitchen to eat, we are less likely to eat recreationally.
  • Plan a few activities a week to get out and just move around. Take walks, play Frisbee, do some aerobics to loud music. People who exercise have less stress, sleep better, have better moods, concentrate better and have more energy. Exercise is the natural high of the healthy family.
  • Make exercise a game. Set up family competitions to see who meets their exercise goals for the week and have a prize for those who do. Or make it a cooperative activity and support each other by doing activities together.
  • Have plenty of healthy alternative snack foods around, for example fruits or low fat snack foods. Everyone likes a snack. Healthy families make sure they have healthy alternatives available.