Sep 28, 2015 3:45 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Habits in your child's life you can change so that they don't suffer from obesity

Are you worried about your child’s weight? You’re not alone. According to the Utah Department of Health, the number of children and adolescents who are at an unhealthy weight is at a record high, with about 20% of Utah elementary school and high school students overweight or obese.

“Obesity is the most common chronic health problem among adolescents,” says Nicole L. Mihalopoulos, MD, a physician in adolescent medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine who specializes in adolescent obesity.

Using a strategy called motivational interviewing, Mihalopoulos has her patients identify habits they actually can and will change. Take a page from her playbook with these tips.

Make It Fun

Adults may hop on the stair climber, lift weights or pound out a few miles on the treadmill even when they don't enjoy it. For kids, finding activities they like is the key.

“Research has shown that motivational interviewing techniques are far more likely to help people create changes in their own lives versus telling them how to change,” Mihalopoulos says.

Ask children how they can be more active. Have them pick an activity they want to do—dancing, soccer, skateboarding—then help them pursue it.

Make It a Team Effort

“Kids that live in a home where both parents are obese are 80% more likely to be obese,” Mihalopoulos says. “The entire family has to be involved or the child isn’t going to be successful.”

Wholesome eating should be a family affair. Stock the fridge with good-for-you options and add a few healthy recipes to your weekly repertoire. Aim for nutritious breakfasts like oatmeal with fresh berries; pack that lunchtime brown-bag full of veggie sticks with hummus for dipping and your child’s favorite sandwich; trade in pizza night for a build-your-own taco salad night.

“It’s not a matter of being dictatorial and telling them they need to eat better and exercise,” Mihalopoulos says. She frequently asks parents: What’s one thing you can do to help your entire family be healthier? “Pursue that,” she says. 

Take the Next Step

Ready to make some changes at home? Schedule an appointment with Mihalopoulos to create a plan that works for you and your family. 

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