By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 18 percent of American children age 6-11 and 21 percent of teens age 12-19 are overweight enough to be considered obese. Sadly, childhood obesity tends to mature into adult obesity. About a third of the adults that are obese got that way in their childhood. That’s one of the numerous reasons it is crucial to keep kids from becoming overweight and to help obese kids lose weight.

Childhood obesity and an inactive lifestyle go hand in hand. More than half of obese children are inactive. Generally, kids who are physically inactive at home are inactive elsewhere. They tend to take the least active role in organized activities.  Many times, obese children want to participate in an activity but feel embarrassed and awkward.

Poor nutrition is another major contributor in childhood obesity.  Soda, chips, cookies and fast foods seem to be the snacks/meals of choice for many kids and their families. In my opinion, these foods should come with a warning label on them like cigarettes have. I cringe when I see children sucking down soda and sugary drinks or eating processed foods with a shelf-life of a hundred years or more.

Attitude also plays a role in childhood obesity. Attitude means feeling good and living with respect integrity and tolerance.  When parents have positive attitudes, kids feel supported. Change is hard, and eating nutritiously can seem challenging. In reality, it is not.  It may take a little more prep time and a few more trips to the grocery store for fresh fruits and veggies, but in the long run, it is always worth it!

So, my advice is to take the three attributes of childhood obesity and draw a triangle.  Place the words activity, nutrition and attitude at each point.

Now make another triangle. Let’s call this one the success triangle. This triangle has the words dedication, vision and faith at the three connecting points. This triangle is meant to challenge the first triangle, to give a mirror image of what can be and what you can do by living every day with a big heart, unlimited passion and an unwavering faith in yourself and each other.

Let’s start with activity and its triangle counterpart: dedication. As a family, set up opportunities to add physical activity to your weekly routine.  It could be as easy as getting outdoors to hike, ski, play or walk the dog. As a parent of two boys, I do not always want to always have to ‘play’ with them, but I will certainly encourage them to throw on play clothes and get outside.  They may come in filthy, but they have been running, throwing and lifting.

To tackle nutrition, think vision. As adults, we know how our bodies feel when we eat good things vs. when we eat junk.  You certainly do not feel peppy and energized after chowing down on chicken wings and soda.  Let’s be realistic too, convincing your obese child that a slice of watermelon is better for them than ice cream may be a hard sell.  So, set realistic expectations for food.  Start with small changes, like only offering milk or water at meals, then gradually make bigger changes, like cutting out certain processed foods altogether.  Believe me, if done correctly, small changes will make a big difference, and if you are making these changes as a family, the outcome is even greater that you will achieve your desired results.

Now let’s hit attitude and think faith. Believe in yourself and never give up your dreams and ideals. Positive thinking has powerful effects, but so does negative thinking. As I said before, change is not easy, but it is imperative if you or your child is obese. It could mean life or death.

So use the success triangle as your model and start making a plan.  You will never grow tired of how good healthy can feel.