When it comes to explaining excess weight, some people believe that obesity and other weight issues “run in the family.” In any family, there can be generations – from grandparents to children – of overweight family members. What is a problem for the grandparent and parent is frequently a problem for the child; however, simply referring to “genetics” is not an accurate explanation.
When it comes to tackling family obesity, the first question most people have is does my family have a physical disease that is making us fat? The answer is yes and no. Diseases that produce obesity do exist: hypothyroidism and Prader-Willi syndromes, for example. However, in pediatrics, these account for fewer than 5 percent of children who suffer from obesity. The rest have exogenous obesity – they simply consume too many calories.
Consumption of too many calories, especially from simple carbohydrates such as white breads and desserts, causes a vicious cycle within the bloodstream, creating hunger and releasing excess insulin into the blood, which may lead to diabetes. To help the entire family relearn how to eat and beat obesity, I urge grandparents to take a key role in teaching their children and grandchildren the key principles of manageable weight loss and leading by example, using these easy-to-initiate tips:
1. Do not starve to lose weight. Never skip breakfast; a small carbohydrate snack such as fruit is perfect to start the day and get the body burning calories.
2. Do not drink calories. Stick to water and skim milk; drink diet drinks sparingly. Juice should not be an option. Juice is a fruit from which everything good has been removed. Just eat the piece of fruit and drink water.
3. Do not eat while doing something else, such as reading, watching TV or playing games.
4. Eat as a family. Knowing each others’ intake will keep everyone accountable.
5. Know all about food. It is the simplest factor to control intake. Grandparents and parents should strive to know the calorie and fat content of every food that they and their children eat.
6. Move together. Take a brisk walk after dinner, play basketball, go ice skating. Exercise is fun and should be treated as such.
These weight-loss guidelines may be simple, but many efforts are often wasted when they are not kept consistent through the entire family. Your grandchildren’s pediatrician can prescribe the best plan for the family and put everyone on the right track to healthy eating habits and successful weight control.
Anatoly Belilovsky, M.D., is medical director of Belilovsky Pediatrics in Brooklyn, New York. A recognized expert in pediatric asthma and an advocate for immediate, comprehensive illness diagnosis, Dr. Belilovsky has gained acclaim and a large patient following for his fresh approach to general pediatrics and urgent treatment.
Board-certified in pediatric medicine, the Princeton graduate is listed as one of America’s top pediatricians and is a recipient of the Americhoice Quality of Care Award for his groundbreaking work with pediatric asthma patients. Dr. Belilovsky is a dedicated physician whose mission is to provide quality urgent care 365 days a year and comprehensive early detection of illness through cutting-edge diagnostic methods and state-of-the-art non-radiological equipment.