New intervention program combats childhood obesity

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

Vending machines in schools, poor food choices and video game exercise has turned children and teens into larger, plumper versions of themselves. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Dietary Center is developing a program to combat this growing health crisis.
A health intervention program will begin the first week in February at the LRMC Pediatric Clinic, with an emphasis on child and adolescent obesity. The program will consist of six weeks of classes that give diet and recreation options, as well as access to a behavioral therapist and exercise physiologist.
“It’s going to be family oriented,” said Army Lt. Col. Joice Carter, a LRMC clinical dietician. “Kids won’t show up alone. We encourage the family to come. Research shows that when the entire family gets involved, the program is much more effective.”
“We’re not dropping them after six weeks either,” said Air Force Maj. Danelle Frank, chief of medical nutrition therapy. “We will have monthly programs about cooking healthy meals, exercise and even have some guest speakers.”
It’s important to keep the information incoming because the habits of obese children can be hard to break. And the habits developed at an early age likely will follow them throughout life, said Major Frank.
“We have an active food chart that shows what kids are really eating,” said Colonel Carter. “French Fries are the number one vegetable that they eat.”
“Isn’t that sad?” said the major.
Currently, one in five adolescents is considered overweight. The rise is due in part to video games and super sizing. Children are eating larger portions of food and exercising less.
“Kids eat a lot of empty calories,” said Major Frank. “People are motivated by price. If they see that it cost only 10 cents more for biggie fries, they buy them. Many parents expect children to eat like adults, which they should not do.”
Obese children have a 70 percent chance of becoming an overweight adult, said Frank. In addition to low self-esteem, obesity increases the risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, type two diabetes and high blood pressure.
According to Sue Walker, LRMC outpatient dietician, one change for the better begins with healthy food choices at school.
“School cafeterias offer healthy choices,” said Ms. Walker. “But it’s up to children to make the healthy decision.”
Walker said too many people think to lose weight they must either starve themselves or seriously limit what they are allowed to eat.
“That simply is not true,” she said. “I am not taking anything away. I am adding foods to the list. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink diet sodas instead of regular ones. Eat six times per day. Eating frequently helps keep the metabolism running at a high rate.”
Eating six times per day, however, does not mean one should eat six full plates of pasta. Ms. Walker said an apple, banana or piece of toast will suffice.
For more information, people can call the LRMC dietary clinic at 486-8191.