When it comes to leading a healthier life for you and your children, we’ve all heard this generic advice – eat better, exercise more. For some reason, this hasn’t broken my habit of making no-bake cookies whenever I need a sugar fix. Please, don’t tell anyone my secret! I’m board-certified in obesity medicine, and it might hurt my image …
Seriously, all jokes aside (although those cookies are no joke), I’ve sadly seen similar frustrations over and over again from families struggling to help their child get to a healthier weight. Some of this frustration easily comes from feeling completely alone in this fight. These families are often told repeatedly to “eat five fruits and vegetables a day” and “only drink water.” Or they’ve listened to great advice from a clinician, but can’t remember it later or have a hard time implementing it. This is especially troubling considering nearly 13.7 million children across the nation are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From all the research out there on losing weight, one thing is very clear – success depends on multiple interactions over a long period of time. While your pediatrician can’t host an hour-long session with you every week, there are multiple ways to both gather information and get involved in programs to help you and your child reach your goals. String a few of these together, and you’ll increase your odds of success! See below for some of my favorite local resources for pediatric weight management.
1. YMCA’s Healthy Weight and Your Child
If your child is between the age of 7 and 13, Healthy Weight and Your Child is by far one of the best programs out there. It’s for the whole family, incorporates both nutrition and physical activity and is also administered in a group setting so you can connect with other families. Some of the programs are even offered in Spanish. The only downside – it’s only offered at a few locations, but hopefully more are coming down the line soon.
2. Houston Parks and Recreation
Looking for fun ways to get active? Houston Parks and Recreation works to “enhance the quality of urban life by providing safe, well-maintained parks and offering affordable programming for our community.” If you’re interested in viewing their Fall/Winter Activities Catalog, filled with a variety of affordable (if not free) offerings, click here.
3. Running clubs
Hit the ground running! Marathon Kids and Girls on the Run offer programs across the city to engage children and teenagers in physical activity. Register your family as its own Marathon Kids at Home running club to receive resources and online support.
4. Online cooking resources
When it comes to finding different recipes, the internet is your best friend! In fact, the Houston Food Bank and U.S. Department of Agriculture both host excellent recipe options and online videos on their websites. Recently, Texas Children’s partnered with True Food Kitchen to create three new recipes for families:
- Kale guacamole from True Food Kitchen
- Lettuce cups from True Food Kitchen
- Chocolate pudding from True Food Kitchen
5. Online nutrition resources
Can’t make it to a nutrition class? Stanford University has a public program called Sway on YouTube. These short, educational videos flip the traditional model of nutrition education on its head. To access the playlist, click here.
6. Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Food and Nutrition Services offer general nutrition counseling to outpatients, and nutrition classes are offered at our West Campus and The Woodlands locations, including Healthy Beginnings.
Texas Children’s hosts two separate behavior modification programs for overweight or obese children. A Weigh of Life is an individualized 15-week program for children of nearly all ages, including a fitness evaluation and sessions with a dietitian and psychologist. On the Weigh, which is led by a licensed professional counselor and dietitian, is an 8-week group program focused on teaching children (ages 6 to 12) and their parents how to rethink behavior, food choices and physical activity.
If your child is 12 or older, Texas Children’s Adolescent Medicine facilitates a structured weight management clinic called Teens Working on Wellness (Teen WOW) to help severely obese teens stop further weight gain and achieve steady weight loss goals. For more information, click here.
For Texas Children’s Health Plan members, Keep Fit offers free sessions filled with fun exercises, cooking demonstrations, nutrition education and more. For more information, click here.
7. Kamp K’aana
Kamp K’anna, designed by specialists from Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine, introduces children to powerful, life-changing tools for healthy living while offering the fun of an overnight summer camp experience. For more information on Kamp K’aana 2019, click here.
I chose these resources because almost all families can utilize them. However, there are dozens of other great programs throughout the city targeting more specific regions and demographics, including Healthy Living Matters, the University of Houston’s BOUNCE and even farmers’ markets.
For more information and access to additional resources, visit Texas Children’s Weight Management.