Q: I was a fat kid, so I've worked hard (sometimes) to stay at a healthy weight as an adult. Now I have a 4-year-old and he's becoming overweight, too. I don't want him to have to go through the same struggle. Help!
— Susie R., Akron, Ohio
A: We're pleased you want to help your son have a long and healthy life — kids do need to maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of physical activity right from the start. A new study reveals that around half of children who are overweight before age 5 are on a fast track for obesity. The researchers tracked more than 7,700 kids, starting in kindergarten: At that point 12 percent were obese; 15 percent were overweight. By eighth grade 21 percent were obese and 17 percent were overweight. And these kids are developing health problems we used to see only in adults: high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated lousy LDL cholesterol. Plus, obese kids don't feel good about themselves, and that can impact how well they do in school and throughout life.
Five basic steps can turn this around — and you can adopt them pretty easily.
Walk or exercise with your child for two hours a day; you'll get healthier, too, and build a closer relationship.
Limit screen time: Kids under age 2 should have NONE. Others (including you, Susie) are limited to one to two hours max.
Remove unhealthy treats and syrup- and sugar-added foods and beverages from the house. No artificially sweetened drinks, either; they just promote your child's taste for sweet sodas!
Cook from “almost scratch.” And dish up healthy breakfasts; another study found that kids who skip breakfast or have an unhealthy one are 68 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and face the consequences of becoming an overweight or obese adult.
Stay positive. Talk to your child about the importance of eating right, so he can accomplish whatever he sets his sights on. A child is never too young to understand that you love him and want him to feel and do his best.
Q: There are several people in my office — some are young parents — who are training for a charity triathlon. I was asked to join and I'd like to do it, but I don't see how I can find the time to train for running, swimming and biking! How do these people do it?
— Kalena H., Atlanta
A: Get ready to dive in, and we'll let you in on a secret. When you work out regularly, you get more done! Exercise delivers a positive return on investment. For every 60 minutes of exercise you do most days of the week, you get an hour or more back in increased productivity and clarity of thought. (But don't overdo it! More than 120 minutes of working out at one time ages you!)
Exercise relieves stress. You know a fast walk or bike ride will blow off stress. But did you know it can make you 23 percent more effective at work! That's because when your muscles are relaxed and your brain is clear, you can find solutions to problems more effectively. And the more often you exercise, the better you get at handling stress. So bring it on!
You'll build confidence. When you embrace and conquer physical challenges, you naturally feel more certain you can meet mental and emotional challenges, too. That's one more way exercise gets the job done better and faster.
You'll have more energy. Reducing body fat and building muscle mass increases alertness. Plus, improving your diet to maximize training will give you clean fuel for your brain and body. We suggest giving up added sugars, saying “no” to saturated fats and “yes” to heart-loving mono- and polyunsaturated fats (canola and olive oil) and omega-3 fatty acids (in fish such as salmon and ocean trout), and eating healthy proteins (skinless poultry and 100 percent whole grains). Now, where's that promotion?!
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.