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I've been trying for seven years to instill healthy eating habits in my children (girls now 15 and 13) since I first noticed them overdoing their choices in food. However, even though I cook "light" and have fruits and vegetables around all the time, they both seem to have no will-power if there is the smallest ice-cream container or box of crackers in the house. Neither likes any sports, though one just started ballet. We live in a part of the country where it is 90 degrees by March, and 100-115 degrees every day of the summer, so they hate to be outdoors unless they're swimming and even then they just splash around unless my husband and I (I'm 125 lb; he, at 179, needs to lose about 20) tell them to do laps. We both do 20 laps each night as inspiration, but they don't follow. At this age, is it all right to offer money rewards if they will do laps or, indoors, aerobics to a DVD? I'd prefer that to withholding allowance. We tried dance classes at the Y and they didn't like those (dragged their heels, were late, etc) so I gave it up. Our pediatrician (who is 5'10" and quite large herself) has finally (without prompting) declared them on the line of overweight, so that's some ammunition. I'm willing to have no ice cream or crackers in the house (my husband's plan), but how do I actually get them moving? I read all the articles about "don't use the word diet" and "don't push them into anorexia" but then every other article says we're in an epidemic of overweight children. I calmly talk about portions, about balance, about the need for activity to ensure good health life-long, but they don't respond. What words can I use? Help!


Eleanor Taylor Replied: I would specifically advise you to avoid paying your daughters for healthy lifestyle habits. It is important that they find ways to eat well and exercise that they love, and that they will continue to choose even when you're not around. Talk with your daughters about their preferences. Use the words from these conversations as a guide for communicating with them. Team up with your daughters to explore food and activities they really want to try. Instead of using health and weight concerns as reasons for choices, talk about finding options that are highly valued by them. They might not be interested in their cholesterol level, but most teens are concerned about personal issues like appearance, friends, and social events. Focus on happiness first, and then guide them with an upbeat, positive health or safety message like "it will help your skin look great too". Here are some specific ideas you might try: • Join your daughters in shopping for healthier versions of their favorite foods. Have fun reading labels and ingredients lists on packages, and finding the best buy. • If they love carbs, help them find a healthy type. For example, crackers and pasta can definitely be healthy food items if made from whole grains. • Everything we eat does not have to be 100% healthy. Ice cream contains sugar but it is also a source of calcium. Help your daughters search for a healthier type like the new slow churned low-fat varieties. • Serve foods that the girls love at every meal along with your favorites. With no pressure (and maybe ketchup or salsa), you may find that they will start expanding their choices. • Movement does not have to be a traditional exercise mode or intense to be beneficial. While they might not enjoy swimming laps, teens often enjoy games in the pool like volleyball. Let them plan some family outings that involve activity or even just a day of walking at the mall.
Posted On 2007-11-14 06:45:36
Rob Gilbert Replied: My basic feeling is we study best in the library, we enjoy movies most in a movie theatre, and we work out best in a gym. If they can find a place and people they enjoy being around, it is more likely they will enjoy they will enjoy the activity. It could be anything. Don't worry so much about the behavior since the better lesson is that we become what we're around. The idea is to get them involved in an activity, and then discipline becomes desire, as they move from the idea that we ‘have to do it' toward ‘we want to do it'.
Posted On 2007-10-11 12:56:06
Trish Booth, MA Replied: It's hard as a parent to model healthy behavior that your children don't seem to pick up on. However, you have been more successful than you think. Your daughters are only "on the line" for being overweight. Because your daughters ultimately control their eating, it's better to work cooperatively with them. Now that their pediatrician has commented on their weight, you can ask her for a referral to a nutritionist. You should attend the meeting so that you can help implement the plan, but let your daughters work out the plan with the nutritionist. That way it will be their plan. Having your daughters help with meal preparation will get them more involved with portions, fat content, and food choices without your having to lecture. Helping with meal preparation shouldn't be presented as a punishment but as family time when you all pitch in. An exercise routine has to be fun or fulfilling in order for it to be sustained. An imposed 20 laps doesn't sound like fun. Instead, try building on what they are doing. If they like splashing in the pool, how about pool polo or pool volleyball as an activity? They will get exercise without it seeming like a chore. If you want them to have something more structured, have them choose a class that they can take together or with you or you husband: Pilates, yoga, kick boxing. Let each of them choose what most appeals to them. You can have an incentive to get the activity started, but self-satisfaction is what will keep it going.
Posted On 2006-05-30 16:51:21
Pamela Waterman Replied: At this age, I think money incentives are acceptable. Is there something in particular they'd like to save up for? Setting a routine is good, as is trying to get a friend in on it, too. If there is a time-frame in mind (over the summer?) that will help them get over not having those tempting foods in the house.
Posted On 2006-05-22 16:13:17
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