Childhood Obesity: A Growing Problem (cont.)

PE is being cut more and more every year, and my kids are not competitive and not skilled enough to play on a team (teams around here are very competitive and really select; if you aren't good, you sit on the bench which does no one any good). What can we do to encourage our kids to be more physically active? We already restrict television viewing to one program a day. Can you suggest specific activities?

You cannot rely upon the PE programs or the school or other type of sports programs to meet the requirement of physical activity with your children. As I said with eating, you as parents will have to set the example. Our studies show it doesn't take that much activity to get a tremendous return on investment. As an adult if you were to walk briskly 30 minutes, three times a week that can reduce death from diabetes, strokes, and cancer by some 58% and can increase your life span from up to six years.

So if parents can just spend 20 to 30 minutes involved in some type of activity with their children, whether walking, or sports that may be the most beneficial thing they can do in the early years. You can't rely upon sports or PE, because it's simply not going to work.

MEMBER QUESTION: My son is 11 years old and weighs 143 pounds. I have him on a low-carb diet but he is not losing weight. What am I doing wrong?

The problem is low carb is not always low calorie; it's calories that count. It's the calories you consume versus the calories you burn that determine whether you gain or lose. You cannot rely on low carb; it must be low calorie.

I think it's important the family work with the child with professional help, if necessary, to help the child control his weight so he doesn't become an obese teenager and adult.

Again, the only way you can lose weight and keep it off, whether you're a child or adult, is lifestyle changing, and that must include both caloric restriction and physical activity. That's the only thing that will work in the long term. I strongly recommend a balanced diet, not a high-protein or high-fat diet, and not strictly a low-carb diet. The rule of thumb I use for a diet is five is fine, nine is divine. That's the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we should consume daily. But the average American adult gets 3.1 servings, the average American teenager, 1.6. That will not work, and there will be problems in the future.

Would you recommend that mom and son find a physical activity they can do together?

If you can set the example, exercise with your children, do things today together. We have programs in our aerobic center here in Dallas designed for both children and adults: soccer; basketball; swimming; all sorts of things. If the parent and child are overweight, both can benefit from restricting calories and exercise. Do it together and you will enjoy a bonding you never dreamed possible.

"If the parent and child are overweight, both can benefit from restricting calories and exercise.
Do it together and you will enjoy a bonding you never dreamed possible."

MEMBER QUESTION: I'm not a good eater. I don't eat fruits and veggies. What can I do?

Just don't give the fruits to the child one, two, or three times; give them 15 times. Don't give up; don't let them be picky. Eat the fruits and veggies yourselves so, again, the children can follow your example.

Keep trying until you find something you like; there is such variety, there is bound to be something you'll enjoy.

There's a whole controversy of the school lunch program and vending machines. Some people feel that the vending machines in schools and the school lunch programs are the cause of American children obesity. I can safely say you could take all the vending machines in schools and drop them to the bottom of the ocean and it would not have one impact or effect on the obesity problem. What we need to do is put better products into the machines, and educate and motivate the children to select the products. That's the only way we'll resolve the problem.

You might say the kids won't select these foods. A study published recently in Great Britain took 12 schools and took all the candy, snacks, and soft drinks out of the vending machines and replaced them with 100% juices, milk, flavored milk drinks, and water. They followed the children for six months. Only two schools lost money, two schools made the most money they'd ever made, and the others at least broke even or made money. An example occurred in a school in White Fish, MT. The principal was concerned about what the kids were getting in the vending machine. He decided on his own he would eliminate pop and candy and replace it with 100% juices and fruit. For the first couple of weeks the children rebelled to the highest, but now they're selling more than they ever sold. If the children don't have a choice, they can learn, they can adjust, and they'll be better for it.

I'm convinced children are more receptive now for the need to do something in changing their diets, selecting better foods, and increasing their physical activity than they've ever been before. I think that we as professionals have a window of opportunity to fill that need that's not going to remain open very long. That's why, for the last two and a half years, I've been consulting with the fast-food industry, primarily PepsiCo and their subsidiaries of Tropicana, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Aquafina, and primarily Frito-Lay products. I'm happy to say we've now established a new standard.

For example, the new Baked Lay's potato chips have been improved to the extent that per 1-ounce serving, the calories have dropped from 150 down to 110; fat has been taken from 10 grams to 1.5 grams. The saturated fat has been taken from 3 down to none. All trans fats have been reduced completely, and the sodium from 180 milligrams down to 160 milligrams. A total of nine different products have been modified, but all of the trans fats, which without question is the worst fat anyone can consume, have now been eliminated from all Frito-Lay products. They're the first company to do that. As a result, 55 million pounds of trans fats will be removed from the American diet over the next 12 months. It cost Frito-Lay $37 million to retool and take out the trans fats. They did that without increasing the price of the product.

Other companies are beginning to follow the example of Frito-Lay, because the American people are demanding it. My hope is the American children will be leading the way.

Dr. Cooper, we are almost out of time. Do you have any final words for us?

I want to thank the members of the audience who give me an opportunity to convey information to them that is so important. We will never resolve the obesity problem in America, which could bankrupt us in the not-too-distant future, by relying on physicians, the government, or our teachers. We must accept the fact this is a personal responsibility.

I challenge Americans to take an inventory: Are you overweight? Do you know your body mass index? I gave you guidelines earlier: Body weight multiplied by 703 divided by your height by inches squared. Does its meet the criteria for children 2 to 20, or what about adults? If it's over 25, you're overweight; above 30, you're obese. If you are overweight according to those standards, lose weight. Here's how:

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors