Family Nutrition and Exercise: Helping Children’s Self Image

We have all been there. We have been on the playground as a child. We have been teased about our appearance: our size, our clothes, our hair. We have all reacted differently. Some of us have gotten into fights. Others of us have had our friends defend us. Some of us have withdrawn and avoided the playground at all costs. 
Indoor activities, especially video games and watching TV, become the norm, as does the ease of snacking…snacking on something sweet (ice cream, cookies, cake) or salty (chips, pretzels) while drinking sugary drinks (soda, energy drinks). 
These activities are all reactionary to outside interactions, which, sadly, often follow us into adulthood. Our perceptions of ourselves, even as young children, affect our physical and mental states. This can lead to major health issues as children and have lasting effects on us as adults.
A change in the home environment can help parents struggling with their own self-image and health challenges. These home changes can also affect children in a positive way.

According the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 35% of adults  and 17% of children in the United States are currently diagnosed as obese. In adults, some cultural groups have higher obesity rates than others, particularly non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asians. Age, education, and economic status can also affect obesity in adults. Childhood obesity has been linked to the education and income of the adults in the household.

Many states and communities have developed programs targeting the home as the primary setting to promote family health. These programs target areas that lack the resources with a positive, culturally appropriate message. Fit Families focuses large Hispanic population in New Mexico through the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service and New Mexico State University. The University of Maryland Extension has a similar program through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

In the home, and particularly with young children, parents set the first and primary example of healthy lifestyle choices, which can be affected by the following:

  • accessibility to neighborhood grocery stores
  • affordability of healthier food options
  • accessibility of healthier food options in the kitchen

  • knowledge of meal preparation and cooking
  • designation of and commitment to family mealtimes (often restricted to specific locations such as a dining table)

  • encouragement of and participation in age-appropriate physical activity
  • limitation of excessive screen time (television, tablets, computers, and other devices)
  • positive reinforcement and support

While there are many external influences that can alter our perceptions of ourselves, a positive home environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and recreational or organized exercise can lead to a positive view of ourselves and our children.

Contact the specialists at your local Metabolic Medical Center to design your family weight management program and take control of you and your family’s self image.

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