FAMILY: Families combat childhood obesity

Healthier lifestyles begin at home, with diet and physical activity

There’s a growing – and dangerous – health trend that is hurting our society at a very core level, according to Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer for Island Health.

It’s not actually a “trend.” Not in the way we normally think of them, anyway. It’s not a specific food that’s hot right now (like 2014’s kale obsession) or an exercise plan that’s catching hold (like yoga), but it’s a combination of factors that are leading to a systemic and societal obesity problem.

Stanwick says obesity is as big a health issue globally these days as starvation.

When he was in medical school, they “didn’t even need to know about Type-2 diabetes,” he says. “We’d just never be tested on it, because we’d never see it. Now we’re seeing it diagnosed in kids, and they’re having operations in their 20s and sometimes we’re attending their funerals in their 30s.”

One main issue is we haven’t acknowledged how bad being overweight is for us. And how we get that way – with a sedentary, screen-obsessed lifestyle – is often just as dangerous.

“Some of the more disconcerting evidence shows that their parents don’t see their child as having a weight issue,” Stanwick says, “so we really have to enlist parents and make them see this is an serious situation. They don’t see it as being on par with other illnesses. It’s becoming acceptable.”

One of the best ways to address the issue within the family unit, he says, is to start incorporating and addressing healthier lifestyles – including both physical activity and diet – into our daily routines.

“It doesn’t need to be a Leave-it-to-Beaver-type scenario or a scene from some old 50s television show, but coming together as a family to prepare meals and have activities that engage us interactively is important.”

Making meals together as a family not only encourages healthier eating, as most foods prepared fresh at home are going to be far better for us physically. It can make us think about what we’re putting in our bodies and encourage healthier decision making, especially if we discuss with our kids where the food we’re preparing comes from.

“So many pre-prepared foods have sugar listed right at the top of their ingredients,” Stanwick says. “And we have no idea what goes into it, most of the time. The type of calorie-dense food that comes from the driver-thru window – we’re just not genetically equipped for that.”

The other obvious impact on obesity and weight issues is adding exercise to one’s day-to-day activities. This is especially important for children, according to Stanwick, because physical exercise is directly tied to intellectual development.

The interactivity of children’s play these days has been pushed aside in favour of screens and other sedentary activities, he says. He recommends families get outside and enjoy being together in a positive, activity-driven way.

But it doesn’t need to be a sudden, monumental shift in order to make a positive difference, Stanwick says.

“Make it one meal a week, to start, that you make together with fresh ingredients. Go for one walk a week as a family. I’m sure you’ll see a difference, not only in a physical way, but it will impact your mood and improve many other aspects of your life, as well.”

According to this health expert, stemming the tide of obesity starts at home.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Leon the squirrel gets a fancy snack of almonds and sunflower seeds from a well-meaning local, who really should be leaving Leon to his own foraging devices. (Submitted)
Squirrels don’t need your nuts, thanks

Consider birding instead of wildlife feeding, SPCA suggests

Jessica Sault of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation is hosting a virtual cedar weaving workshop through Royal Roads University on April 25. (Black Press Media file)
Cedar trees weave deeply into lives of coastal First Nations communities

Jessica Sault of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation hosts virtual cedar weaving workshop through Royal Roads

Titan Sparks, who attends Grade 3 at Deep Cove Elementary, plants a seedling to help replace trees damaged by climate change near Deep Cove Elementary. (Louise Beaudry/Submitted)
North Saanich school plants a seed in the fight against climate change

Students at Deep Cove Elementary plant seedlings to replace downed trees

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

The Coastal Fire Centre is looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)
Coastal Fire Centre looking ahead at wildfire season on Vancouver Island

‘We’re asking people in the spring to be very careful’

There are lots of resources for seniors looking for information about COVID-19. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
COVID questions? Here are some phone-based resources available for seniors

Here is a list of numbers to keep on hand for Vancouver Islanders who aren’t fond of computers

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read