By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids
Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – Healthy Weight Habits
While there is a lot of focus on childhood obesity, the problem is actually much worse among American adults – approximately two-thirds of the adult population is currently overweight or obese. The truth is that we have a child obesity problem primarily because we have a growing adult obesity problem. No matter how much we lecture or cajole our kids to eat better and increase physical activity, kids still learn primarily from watching and emulating us. The environment we create for our kids is the “normal” that they will take into adulthood.
The good news is that the reverse is also true – when parents, caregivers, teachers and other adults adopt habits that lead to healthy and successful weight management, children are also more likely to follow our lead and practice healthy behaviors.
What Works for Weight Control
In 1994, obesity researchers Rena Wing, Ph.D. from Brown Medical School and James O. Hill, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado began tracking people who had successfully lost at least 30 pounds and maintained that loss for at least one year. They now follow over 10,000 people via The National Weight Control Registry. On average, participants have lost 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years.
One thing that the researchers discovered is that the successful “losers” developed a personal winning strategy for weight loss. There was no one single diet or exercise program that was found to be superior. Forty five percent of the participants lost the weight on their own while the other 55% lost weight with the help of some type of program. While a few (around 10%) succeeded with a low carbohydrate diet, most registry participants reported eating a lower calorie, lower fat diet.
There were some habits that most participants had in common, though. I’ve compiled 20 healthy habits for families on a worksheet you can download at the bottom of this post, but here are four of my favorites:
1. Eating Breakfast
A majority (78%) report eating breakfast every day. This is good news for a variety of reasons. In addition to helping regulate weight, those who eat breakfast have better overall nutrition and also improved cognitive function, important for working adults as well as school-aged children.
Once weight loss is achieved, it’s important to stay on track by monitoring progress and catching little slips and triggers before they add up and lead to significant weight gains. That is why 75% of the participants weigh themselves at least once a week.
Watching less than 10 hours of TV per week was reported among 62% of participants in the registry. Screen time is known to be a risk factor for weight gain in kids and adults alike.
4. Moving More
Exercising an average of one hour per day is practiced by 90% of those who successfully maintain their weight loss. It’s not surprising that building activity into every day contributes to successful weight control. The good news is that routine moderate to vigorous activity also enhances overall physical and mental health.
20 Ways to Become a Fitter Family
Just like the participants in the National Weight Control Registry, you too can succeed at maintaining a healthy weight. Family behavior changes leading to healthier weight are more likely to “stick” when you set goals and tackle them together. The downloadable handout below offers 20 ideas for becoming a “fitter family.” Build on these ideas by coming up with your own successful family health strategies.
Right-click here to download a list of 20 healthy habits for families!
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