Families practicing healthy behaviors helps reduce obesity

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Research shows that fat shaming occurs more often from immediate family members but is also experienced through teasing and bullying by peers. These comments increase the risk for disordered eating, additional weight gain or emotional and psychological distress. Preventing kids from becoming overweight or helping them to lose weight means making healthier choices, which are not often the simplest or most convenient. Experts say that focusing on healthy behaviors as a family rather than putting one family member on a diet promotes a much more positive self-image and attitude.

In addition to preventing childhood obesity, the following tips will help families live healthier together:

- Eat and drink healthy: Make water the drink of choice, and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water. Keep full water bottles available in the car and back packs.

- Play every day, go outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.

- Get together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and cleanup. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-on-one time each day with their kids, enjoying each other's company.

- Reduce recreational screen time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cellphone or video game should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, charge electronics/screens in the kitchen overnight, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen).

- Sleep well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night, and adults need seven to eight hours.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.