Childhood obesity: Let's start the conversation
For National Nutrition Month, we're featuring a series of posts focusing on the importance of making informed food choices.
The topic of childhood diet, exercise and obesity is the elephant in the room during many office visits.
As providers, we understand it is difficult to discuss your child’s weight.
Talking about childhood obesity is challenging for us as well. However, as medical practitioners, we are invested in healthy outcomes for our patients and their families, so we want to help guide you in dealing with this reality and the impact on your family.
First, I want you to know it’s okay to be worried about your child’s weight. I understand feelings of guilt or blame are often the reasons for not wanting to have a conversation with your health care provider.
Often providers worry about how to start the conversation, too, without upsetting families and casting obesity in a negative light.
However, it’s essential to talk openly and truthfully about weight issues, to address diet and exercise habits and other behaviors affecting weight so we can develop a great plan together.
After all, what could be more important than the health and well-being of your child?
When the topic is finally broached, the first response from many families is often, "How can I help? What can I do?"
Let me give you two tips right now!
1. Visit a nutritionist.
Specially trained in all things dietary, nutritionists are involved in most areas of health care and often work with patients who are obese or overweight.
A nutritionist will work with you and your child to:
- Identify current diet habits
- Determine nutritional needs
- Discuss creative ways to start a healthy diet
- Develop a weight-loss plan
2. Join a healthy weight management or wellness program.
These are comprehensive programs that teach and promote healthy lifestyle habits for diet, exercise, mental/social health and physical health.
Many major children’s hospital systems offer weight management programs. They are family oriented, meaning the entire family is encouraged to participate in adopting healthy lifestyle changes.
A healthy weight management or wellness program will:
- Give support, education and guidance from providers, nutritionists and other health care team members to help on the weight-loss journey
- Provide health screenings for conditions caused by obesity, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes
- Pair you with other families that are starting to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Once the conversation has begun, your provider will ask if you would like your family to participate and can provide a referral to a local program.
So don’t hesitate — we want to hear your concerns about your child’s weight. Remain open, and remember that your child’s weight is not your fault. Solutions are available. Let your practitioner help.
Learn how to participate in our Mary Bridge Pediatric Weight and Wellness Program for ages 6-17.
This story was originally published in February 2015 and updated in March 2016.
About The Author
Dixie Reynolds, ARNP, is a nurse practitioner at our MultiCare Auburn Pediatric Outpatient clinic. Originally from Florida, Dixie has more than 10 years’ experience in pediatric nursing and is passionate about working with children and their families. In her spare time, she enjoys having fun with her daughter and exploring Washington state. More stories by this author