Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tackling childhood obesity in Canada

Earlier this week Canada started an initiative to reduce childhood obesity and apparently there are a bunch of comments on news stories about how easy it is to lose weight and who's fault it is there are so many obese people around. I have to wonder how many of these commenters have maintained even a 5 kilo weight loss.  It seems many people  think they are exempt from BMI due to big bones, never step on a scale etc.

First the advantages of being non obese in case you think it's all about looks and meaness. Less pills as you age to prevent high blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, mitigate gout and control cholesterol levels. Decrease bone and soft tissue injury from extra weight bearing and body size (public structures constructed for smaller body sizes).

Research has confirmed that it is mostly about controlling calorie intake and getting sufficient exercise but this is not as simple as chucking kids outside and starving them at meal times. It does start with parental habits, then teachers and youth leaders and finally all adults. If you get used to the idea that everyone is large, being a little larger is also easy.

The first idea that has to be changed is the idea of going on a diet. Yes diet is what we eat everyday but for many the word diet is linked with deprivation. When we decided to lose weight we were changing our eating habits, finding foods we enjoyed that were more nutritious than our other choices and bringing those foods home from the grocery store. We don't eat a structured evening meal so we get quick to prepare foods that we like-not cans of stuff but fixings for quesedillias-and getting the smaller portion size. We plan our eating out because meals are guaranteed to have double the calories of what we would eat at home unless we choose a kids meal or seniors portion.

People need to build activity into the day whether it is walking to work or school or making teachers and students move around between classes.  After schools is where the activity games are helpful. Kinecs, Move and Wii do not burn a pile of calories but it does decrease sedentary behaviour. Make sure family homes have stairs and encourage their use (this one is easy) with room placement-pass on basement wet bars or only stock for special occasions.

These kind of  actions help change habits.