ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- When dealing with childhood obesity, nothing happens overnight. According to Dr. Deborah Nunziato-Ghobashy of Highland Medical, preventing and treating the disorder is easier when it becomes a family affair.
"I find children are most successful in losing weight when the whole family gets involved and provides support," said Nunziato-Ghobashy, who is a primary care physician with Family Practice Associates of Rockland in Valley Cottage. "That often means changing the entire family’s eating habits."
Childhood obesity often occurs gradually, and parents who notice a son or daughter becoming overweight should address the problem early. This way, it's easier to break unhealthy eating and exercise habits before they're set in stone.
"I usually start by advising everyone in the family to cut down on snacking, and switching to healthier snacks," said Nunziato-Ghobashy. "For instance, limit high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks. Instead, have plenty of fruits and vegetables available, such as apples, bananas, blueberries or grapes and vegetables such as carrots or celery with hummus."
She also recommends getting outside and breaking a sweat through activities such as walking, jumping rope and swimming. "Just getting up from the couch and getting outside is a good first step. Even games like Pokémon Go can offer a workout. The important thing is that they are having fun, so they don’t realize they’re exercising."
Also remember, when fighting childhood obesity, it's not solely about short term benefits, said Nunziato-Ghobashy. Studies have shown that staying at a healthy weight in childhood and teen years greatly increases the chances of becoming a healthy adult.
"Families helping a child lose weight should understand that these healthy eating and exercise changes are permanent," reminds Nunziato-Ghobashy. "Once a child reaches a healthy weight, the key is to stick to the changes that helped them get there. The reward is a lifetime of health."