Families learn healthy habits, lose weight together in Y program
Maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge for some adults, but what do you do when you’re concerned your child might be overweight?
“It’s OK to be worried about your child’s weight,” says Dixie Reynolds, ARNP, with Mary Bridge Pediatrics – Auburn. “It’s essential to talk openly and truthfully about weight issues, to address diet and exercise habits and other behaviors affecting weight to develop a plan together.”
One of her tips? Join a healthy weight management or wellness program — such as Actively Changing Together! (ACT!), offered by YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties (the Y).
In the ACT! program, families gather in a group setting to learn healthier habits. Once a week for 12 weeks, parents participate with their children in 90-minute group sessions led by a nutritionist and a physical activity coach. There, they learn how to prepare healthy meals and snacks, participate in activities and games and receive group support for making lifestyle changes in their family.
“Every session is interactive and we all learn from each other as we share information, challenges and support, often while preparing or sharing a healthy snack,” says MultiCare sports and wellness dietitian Lisa Lovejoy.
Bobby and Connie Torres signed up for ACT! when their son Nick started having health issues.
“We realized we weren’t alone,” Bobby says. “There are other families out there with the same issues we have.”
Another benefit the family enjoyed — the free three-month membership during the program.
“As a family, we see the Y as a priority and an important part of our weekly routine,” says Connie.
It’s the combination of learning healthy eating and exercise that makes the program so appealing to health providers who refer families to the ACT! program, says Tyra Halverson, clinical dietitian for Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center.
“Weight management is really hard, and you want to get children into a program that’s consistent, holds them accountable and focuses on both exercise and healthy eating,” she says. “And the free Y membership gets kids excited.”
Plus, participating as a family is a helpful approach, says Susan Buell, Association Director of Health Initiatives for the Y.
“Families are engaged together in games that are physically active, in discussions about food choices and strategies and in hearing from each other ideas for what’s working and what’s not,” Buell says. “They’re encouraged to make small changes in their choices each week and come back to share their challenges and successes.”
Is Actively Changing Together? right for my family?
Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you’re concerned about your child's weight. Children and teens ages 8-14 who have a high pediatric body mass index (BMI) are referred to the ACT! program by their pediatrician, school nurse or other health provider. The program cost is $30 and financial assistance is available.
Have questions about the program? Contact Susan Buell at the Y: 253-460-8912 or [email protected].
About The Author
Roxanne Cooke is our senior content editor and manages Vitals, Kite Strings and Bring Happy Back, plus special projects such as 24 Hours at Tacoma General Hospital and The Healthy Futures Project. She tells stories in words, photos and video. You can reach her at [email protected]More stories by this author