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Childhood weight loss a team effort

Jul. 5, 2013
 
Stacy Braun, Marshfield Clinic child psychologist
Stacy Braun, Marshfield Clinic child psychologist
ORG XMIT: 105954912 AURORA, CO - NOVEMBER 13: A child sits on the gym floor during the Shapedown program for overweight adolescents and children on November 13, 2010 in Aurora, Colorado. The 10-week family-centered program held by the Denver area Children's Hospital teaches youth and their parents ways to lead a healthier more active lifestyle, as a longer lasting weight-loss alternative to dieting. Nationally, some 15 percent of children are overweight or obese, as are some 60 percent of adults. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: 105954912JM025_CHILDREN_S_H / Getty Images

Childhood obesity facts:

→One-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese
→The number of obese and overweight children in the U.S. has tripled since 1980
→About 80 percent of overweight adolescents become obese adults

Family fitness activities in your area:

- Healthy Lifestyles Marshfield Area Coalition bicycle discount program - provides discounts or free items to individuals who ride bicycles to participating Marshfield businesses June 1 - Aug. 31. Call 715-221-8400 for more information.
- Mead Pool family nights, 5:30 - 7 p.m. Wednesdays June 12 - Aug. 14 at Mead Pool, 1421 Alton St., Wisconsin Rapids
- Fit Kids duathlon, 6 p.m. July 12 and 2013 Lactic Edge Triathlon, 8 a.m. July 13 at Bukolt Park, 100 Bukolt Ave., Stevens Point. Visit www.spymca.org/special-events/ for more information.
- Wausau School Foundation FUN’D RUN - 10K or 5K trail walk/run and 1K Chipmunk Run for children 10 and under, 9 a.m. - noon Sept. 13 at the Wausau School Forest, 2340 Highway KK, Mosinee. Visit www.active.com, search for Mosinee, WI, and select FUN’D RUN 2013 for more information.

Laurie Meyer, Marshfield Clinic nurse practitioner

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About one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese due to poor diet and lack of exercise, which puts them at risk for other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.

Overweight and obese children often experience depression and become targets of bullying.

With so many potentially negative consequences, treatment involves a team of expert to help to change behaviors and lifestyles for the child and parent. Marshfield Clinic’s pediatric weight management clinic saw 91 new patients last year

A dietitian in the weight management clinic works with children and parents to identify healthful meal and snack choices, and younger children are encouraged to ask their parents for snacks instead of taking items from the cabinet or refrigerator.

“We come up with a plan for the child based on age and their activity level before they came to the clinic,” said Laurie Meyer, a Marshfield Clinic nurse practitioner.

The weight management team works with parents to maintain weight in children younger than 6, because young children can often reach a healthy body mass index as they grow taller.

Older children and teenagers receive a pedometer, a book that lists calorie counts for various foods and information about movement and exercise to help them lose between half a pound and two pounds per week, Meyer said.

Families are counseled about creating healthy meal plans. Although fast food might be a quick alternative, Meyer points out that it is low in vitamins and nutrients and high in fat and calories and should not be the main source for meals.

A child psychologist also works as part of the weight management team to address depression and self-esteem issues that can accompany childhood obesity.

Overweight children are often teased or bullied or feel ashamed because their weight makes it difficult for them to participate in sports with their peers

Braun works with children to challenge negative thoughts and feelings, develop realistic perceptions of themselves and find positive ways to cope with depression.

Importance of role modeling

Many children watch movies and play video games after school instead of playing outside or doing chores, added Brianna Czaikowski, a nurse at the pediatric weight management clinic.

Stacy Braun, a child psychologist who works with the weight management team, said she encourages families to change their habits together because parents are important role models for their children.

“Children will wonder why it’s okay for mom and dad to each chips and have regular soda when they can’t have it,” Meyer said. “It’s a whole lifestyle change for the whole family, and it can be hard for parents and siblings who don’t have a weight problem.”

Families are encouraged to take bike rides, go for walks or join a fitness center together.

Meyer said she reminds parents they can improve their own weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and mood by making healthier lifestyle choices.

“Whether the weight difficulties are there or not, I think everyone could strive to make healthier lifestyle changes,” Braun said.

Children who have achieved a healthy weight continue to work with the weight management team to maintain their weight loss.

Parents are encouraged to reward children with privileges for making healthy choices, compliment their child’s new, fit appearance and remind their child how good it feels to exercise or participate in sports.

“That’s what our team’s goal is, to help patients and families create healthier lifestyles,” Braun said.

Marisa Cuellar can be reached at 715-384-3131. Find her on Twitter as @mnhmarisa.

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