Dr. Susan Bartell: Forming a Fit Family
Dr. Susan stayed active as a youngster by figure skating. When she became a teen, she stopped figure skating and didn’t replace it with any other form of exercise. Dr. Susan began to gain weight. She knows how difficult it is to be called “fat” as a young person.
“I remember hating the feeling of not fitting into the fashionable clothes that I was desperate to wear and thinking that the boy I liked wouldn’t ever like a 'fat girl.'"
She tried dieting but would end up sneaking food in her room at night after everyone was asleep. Dr. Susan stayed overweight through the end of college then finally she learned how to eat healthily, to take care of her body and lose weight.
Now as the parent of three children, Dr. Susan sees the pressures that can interfere with good health that all kids face in so many areas. There are pressures to fit into unrealistic fashions and the unbelievable demands to resist the barrage of advertising for unhealthy foods.
“Learning how to successfully help your overweight child is not nearly as difficult to master as most people think,” says Dr. Susan. “But it takes more than just good nutrition and exercise.”
THE PHYSICAL FACTS AND THE FOOD-MOOD CONNECTION
As a psychologist, Dr. Susan incorporates the emotional side of overeating as a factor in childhood obesity. Before putting any child on a diet, Dr. Susan says it’s important to have a doctor determine if your child is overweight. After a parent has a pediatrician’s recommendation for weight loss, it’s important to resist the urge to weigh your child at home. She says it will cause the child to feel insecure. Instead concentrate on making healthier choices for the child and confine the weigh-ins for the doctor’s office.
Another important step to weight loss is becoming aware that there are powerful forces that can interfere with a parent’s best efforts. For example, ads on television. Kids see one food commercial for every five minutes of TV on Saturday morning. Over 80 percent of foods advertised are targeted at kids for fast food, snack food and sweets.
Dr. Susan says that many people, including kids, eat to gratify feelings that they experience each day. It’s important for parents not to reward their child with food. Instead encourage your child to talk about their feelings, good or bad, rather than including food. She suggests taking a walk instead, or journaling or exercising.
Instead of watching your child play video games, encourage your child to go outside. “Turn off the TV,” says Dr. Susan. The hard part is that parents have to be outside too. Push them on a swing, play basketball, look for fall leaves. She says exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout. It can be fun, family activities like taking a nature walk, collecting stones or leaves and going back to the house and gluing them to paper.
Another important thing parents can do to change their child’s life is to get soda out of the house. “One of the biggest causes of obesity in this country is soda,” says Dr. Susan. Parents can offer one glass of soda on very special occasions. “Kids need to eat mostly natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grain carbs, low-fat dairy and lean meat.” She does not recommend a no-fat diet for kids. “It’s not satisfying and kids need some fat in their diets,” she says.
Watch Dr Susan, Kristi Watts and Kristi's son Chase demonstrate how to get fit during commercial breaks.
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