Combating youth obesity begins in the backyard and at the dinner table

By Kevin DiDonato, Special to the BDN
Posted May 16, 2011, at 11:19 a.m.

Becoming a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast has helped me help others of all ages to develop more active lifestyles to support good health.

My interest in working with young people has grown out of my experience with the Youth Obesity Collaborative and Intensive Weight Loss clinic in Ellsworth. Seeing how obesity in youth is linked to physical and mental health problems, both in childhood and later in life, convinced me that this age group deserves special attention.

As a busy working parent, I know what other parents experience. Hectic lifestyles, the allure of technology, and Maine’s cold weather are challenges to doing what we know is best for our children. With two young boys of our own, my wife and I understand these challenges.

Our children have not suffered from poor food choices and lack of exercise.  We have set a goal:  to develop and maintain healthy habits for our family.  At the dinner table, television, phones and computers are turned off and we enjoy family time.

Despite their convenience, we avoid prepackaged foods and sugary treats except on holidays and special occasions. It takes a bit more time and effort to prepare home-cooked meals and pack lunches for school and work, but it pays off in more healthful diets and savings in our food budget.

Outside, we play soccer, tag or hide-and-seek and are constantly on the move. We run around the playground, take family walks after dinner and  go for hikes on weekends — fun ways to reinforce the value we place on maintaining physically active lives.

As in all things, moderation is key. Occasional treats and “guilty pleasures” are part of life at my house. But we all need to look out for the best interest of our children by modeling the pleasure of physical activity and enjoying a daily diet that is healthful, appealing and served in an atmosphere of love.

As busy parents, you may find that work and other adult responsibilities sometimes get in the way of enjoying your family life. But our children are only young once, and this chance to enjoy their youth and shape their values will never come again.

Kevin DiDonato is a professional health educator and a certified personal trainer. His home-based business, Human Performance Lab in Ellsworth, provides private and semiprivate fitness training, nutrition counseling, boot camp training, and private or group Pilates classes.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/16/health/combating-youth-obesity-begins-in-the-back-yard-and-at-the-dinner-table/ printed on November 25, 2014