Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Controversial Obesity Ads Won’t Help Kids Lose Weight

posted by Linda Mintle

Today, I am going on the news to talk about a group of video and print ads out out by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Approximately, 40% of Georgia’s children are overweight, one of the highest obesity rates in American.

Health officials in Georgia feel like they need to do something drastic. Their decision to run ads of overweight kids talking about being bullied at school, having medical problems and asking mom why they are overweight has been met with controversy. One billboard shows an overweight girl with the caption, “Warning! It’s hard to be a little girl if you are not.”

Personally, I don’t think trying to shame kids and portray them as victims works well to help them lose weight. Yes, overweight kids are bullied, but plastering them on billboards and making them appear as victims is not a solution. Let’s get at the problems causing childhood obesity and focus on solutions.

I’ve been working in a community coalition focused on preventing childhood obesity for years. The problem has many layers and must be addressed multiple ways. Here are five:

1) Parents buy the food and make the choices to bring it in to the house. Parents are the ones who need strategies to cook better, find produce that is cheap enough to afford, and then model how to eat healthy. Three-year-olds do not go to fast food places and order fries, parents do. Kids model their eating habits from their parents. So we need to work with families, not just the children. The ads would be better if they showed a family talking about the impact of obesity.

2) Most parents do not even realize their children are overweight. That may seem hard to believe but it turns out to be true. We need to educate parents regarding BMI (body mass index) and medical complications associated with childhood obesity. The ads try to do this but the method will not work.

3) Kids need to move. Mrs. Obama gets it right on her let’s move campaign. Bring back PE, recess and physical activity in schools. Parents, get your kids off the video games and in the park. Say no to hours of television and sedentary living. This means families have to get up and move as well. City kids need safe places to play, parks with equipment that works, and sidewalks and green spaces.

4) Cities can do more to encourage healthy eating with community gardens, fresh produce in poor neighborhoods, less fast food in poverty areas, etc.

5) Cities can plan better with bike paths, public sidewalks and public spaces that are safe for kids to play.

These are just a few of the multitude of ideas my community coalition addresses on preventing childhood obesity. Getting kids and families to change their eating and exercise behavior is not going to happen by showing a bunch of kids who talk about being bullied and having disease. The reality of bullying and disease hasn’t changed behavior.  The Georgia healthcare advocates are right–preventing childhood obesity will take drastic measures. But those drastic measures may be more effective by working with families and making policy that encourages healthy cities.

 

In my book, Raising Healthy Kids in an unhealthy world, I have a chapter on how to talk to your child if he/she is overweight and loads of practical help on how to prevent childhood obesity. The book is a manual for parents and gives multiple solutions on what parents can do to do with teasing, developmental concerns, body image and more. Order at the right, under my book links.

A New Year’s Resolution: Dealing With Family Dysfunction

posted by Linda Mintle

If you made the familiar trek home to be with family this past holiday season but it turned out to be your personal survivor reality show, you are not alone. Unfortunately, most families don’t function like 1950s sitcoms. In fact, family get-togethers can create angst, leaving us with post holiday let down.

You know the feeling, “I love my family, but they drive me crazy!” Is it because we sleep in our old bedrooms or because nothing has seemed to change in 15 years? Whatever the reason, we return from our holiday visits stressed, fatigued, financially overcommitted, and way too self-reflective about past failures. Guilt seems to be the prevailing emotion. We are guilty for behaving badly, for not being more tolerant, and definitely need to work on staying calmer. Why did we get so upset when Uncle Bob repeated the same story for the fifth time? It was only a story!

We love to fantasize a more idyllic reunion in which we grab a cup of coffee and share stories. There will be great talks, intimate times, and fabulous memories. Then, this dreamlike trance is broken by a familiar voice, “Are you ever going to settle down with a real job like your sister?” So much for the wonderful life! The promise of seasonal cheer gave way to sleep difficulty, headaches, and overeating.

The culprit? Unrealistic expectations. Unless your family has been in intensive therapy all year, probably not much has changed. And unless they begin that needed therapy now, not much will be different next year. Don’t allow this reality to depress you. The good news is you can change. It begins with a resolution. I can’t change my family. But I can change my reaction to them. This year, decide to make a resolution you can keep. Otherwise, you face even more feelings of let down in the months to come!

Change your expectations. Add a little kindness and empathy. Practice more patience, forgiveness, and self-control when it comes to relatives. Make this your New Year’s resolution: I will work on my reactions to family issues and be a model of grace and forgiveness. This doesn’t mean you allow people to walk all over you. It means when people treat you poorly, address it, extend grace, and forgive. Don’t wait for them to do so first. And don’t allow offense and bitterness to take root.

Finally, choose one thing you will do differently this year that will help make things better. For example, “This year I am going to ignore Uncle Bob’s unkind remarks about politics.” Imitate Christ in all you do and ask the Holy Spirit to help you exercise self-control over your tongue. Your family may have problems, but your Christian character and Holy Spirit empowerment can help you live out the power of love. This new year, be more like Christ and love those who don’t always deserve it, family included!

ADHD Medications: Are They Safe?

posted by Linda Mintle

For years I have been treating children and adults with ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder).  An estimated 2.7 million children and 1.5 million adults are prescribed medications for this disorder.

The struggle for many parents is whether or not to medicate a child. For kids who truly have ADHD, medications can really help, but like with all medications, there are side effects and risks. Parents have to weigh those risks against the benefits. Typical side effects include decreased appetite, weight loss, slow growth in children, anxiety, sleep difficulties and modest increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

Among these side effects, heart concerns rank high. In 2005, there were about a dozen deaths from sudden cardiac arrest in young people who used Adderall. Even though Canada reacted by temporarily banning the use of Adderall, those deaths proved to be unrelated to the drug and the use of Adderall was reinstated. However, this raised on-going concerns about the safety of ADHD medications related to the heart. Then in 2008, the American Heart Association recommended children who used ADHD medications undergo cardiac screening and testing before they are dosed.

Two recent studies should bring a little peace of mind (see the Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA)on-line and the New England Journal of Medicine).

One study tracked 1.2 million children and young adults. The other followed 500,00 adults. Both studies found NO increased risk for heart-related problems in users of ADHD medications. Keep in mind that because these studies did not find an increase risk for heart problems, this does not mean the drugs are completely safe. But at least parents have data that shows that as far as we know, taking the medications does not increase risk for serious cardiovascular problems.

 

 

Battling Obesity, Spreading the Gospel

posted by Linda Mintle

This was the headline in our local paper a week ago. As someone deeply involved in preventing obesity, the headline caught my eye.

Five churches in the Elizabeth City, North Carolina area have decided to take action and be a part of the obesity epidemic solution. The churches noted that several of their members are diagnosed with diabetes due to obesity. Adult diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death among African Americans. So the churches decided to band together and have their pastors lead the congregations to better health.

There is exercise, lessons in healthy cooking and portion size, fewer fatty foods at church socials and encouragement for members to participate in blood screenings and weight monitoring.

The awareness and attention to developing healthy eating patterns and lifestyle gets a praise from me.

Great idea pastors. Thanks for doing your part and showing that the church cares about the whole person!

 

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