Getting Fit as a Family

Getting fit and healthy is often a daunting task that might seem destined to fail without the proper support system in place to help you succeed. That’s where getting fit together comes in, to make it a family affair. Obesity is often a family disease. So, it’s best to engage the entire family for the most successful lifestyle change. Studies have shown families tend to gain weight together, in large part because they share similar eating and exercise habits. When trying to prevent obesity, or help manage weight, some approaches are much more effective than others.

Here are my top 5 family approaches to weight management to help get fit together.

Set a Good Example

The single most effective way to change a child's diet and level of physical activity may be to set a good example as a parent. Children usually don't do the grocery shopping or food preparation. They don't organize outside activities or drive themselves to the recreational center or park. Children aren't able to change these behaviors on their own. To help children eat better, be more physically active then parents need to get involved.

Halo Effect

In what’s known as the ‘Halo Effect’, when parents lose weight, so do children, even if that wasn’t the original goal. Dr. John Morton, who performs gastric bypass surgery, noticed a trend among his gastric bypass patients and their families. He conducted a formal study to track families of 35 patients who had gastric bypass. One year after the surgery, he found that indeed, other overweight and obese family members lost weight, between 8 and 45 pounds.

Use Positive Eating Messages

Current research, targeting overweight children or those at risk of becoming overweight, is examining prevention tactics; psychologists are using positive eating messages. Encouraging positive attitudes toward eating is critical because studies have indicated that dieting and food restrictions during childhood may promote weight gain and negatively affect later eating behaviors.

Involve Others

There is strength in numbers. The entire family should be “on board,” including siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other caregivers. This has been shown effective in helping parents and children lose weight by making sure everyone is on board and involved in this process of health behavior change.

Focus on Health, Not Weight

The entire family should be engaged and focused on being healthy. It's not about losing weight as much as it's about eating right and being active in order to be healthy. When everyone in the family gets involved, it shows that eating healthy foods is not a diet for losing weight, but rather it's a diet for being strong, fit and healthy. Also, it's not about short-term changes or quick solutions.

When the family is on board, working together and committed to making lifelong behavior changes, it highlights the positive while moving toward something good: a happier, healthier family.

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