MEND directs youth toward healthy living

The Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It! (MEND) program is kicking off in Greater Victoria in January to promote healthy lifestyles for youth.

The third round of Saanich’s free MEND program will kick off on Jan. 11 and run until March 31, for a total of 20 two-hour sessions. The program is for children seven to 13 years old who are “above a healthy weight,” and who must attend with at least one parent or caregiver.

“Overweight and obesity in Canadian children is near epidemic,” said Dr. Tom Warshawski, a pediatrician in Kelowna and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation.

Warshawski said statistics show 31 per cent of Canadian children are overweight or obese, compared to about 15 per cent in 1978. While rates of overweight children have doubled,  the number of obese children has tripled.

While he agrees children need to learn to accept themselves, Warshawski said the health implications of being overweight means steps need to be taken to create healthier lifestyles.

“To simply say ‘just be happy,’ that’s doing a disservice,” he said. “It’s no one’s fault per se, there’s no villain here, but nonetheless this is a problem.”

Anxiety and low self-esteem can be the worst effects for younger overweight children. As a child gets older, the psychosocial affects can continue, along with emerging chronic problems, such as high blood pressure, blood-sugar abnormalities and hypertension. Going into adulthood, the problems can escalate into heart problems, diabetes or cancer.

“It has profound implications for someone’s lifetime trajectory,” Warshawski said. “And as a parent, we all want our kids to be happy, successful, confident and healthy. If they graduate from their teen years into adulthood overweight or obese, all those goals you have for your child are compromised.”

While the statistics and words of warning focus on weight, the MEND program is about having a healthy lifestyle, not counting pounds.

The sessions focus on nutrition, behaviour change, goal setting, self-esteem and exercise.

“The idea is that it’s co-operative a fun, and everyone is meant to have a good time,” said program co-ordinator Janine Drummond.

The program runs Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Colquitz middle school. To register call 250-475-5412 or email

The YMCA-YWCA is running a MEND program for children from five to seven years old, starting Jan. 12. To register call 250-896-1198 or email



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