Warding off obesity isn't a matter of grueling exercise, faddish diets or giving up your favorite foods, according to Tiffany Reiss, PhD, director of the Exercise Science and Wellness program at Bastyr University.
If there's one theme she has developed in her career as a nutritionist, community-health specialist, corporate fitness manager and coach to female athletes with eating disorders, it's this: Don't be an extremist.
"We tend to think we can never have our favorite foods again," Dr. Reiss says. "We tend to be really extremist about things. It's not about that. It's learning about how to make healthier choices 80 percent of the time. You can still give yourself 20 percent to live a little. We eat because we enjoy it, after all."
This approach comes together in a free, first-of-its-kind children's obesity prevention program September 10, 2011, on Bastyr's campus in Kenmore. In the Active Pediatric and Parental Lifestyle Education (APPLE) Core program, a dozen families (12 adults and their children) will learn strategies for healthy lifestyle changes. They will also be served a gourmet whole-food lunch from the Bastyr Dining Commons, receive a gift certificate to purchase healthy groceries from QFC and practice cooking in Bastyr's nutrition kitchen (more details on signing up here).
The program, which may expand into a day camp next summer, has tips for the rest of us, too:
Think Fun, Not "Exercise"
"Sports are great for people with the right skill set," says Dr. Reiss. "But not everyone is a great soccer player, and it's not as much fun for those who aren't as skilled."
Leaders from the Bastyr Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science will teach games that anyone can play without a gym or much equipment — things like freeze tag, red light-green light, "human knot," "human jumping beans" and beach-ball games.
"These are common games that we play as children," Dr. Reiss says, "When we become adults we think we look silly, so we don't do them, which is a shame because we all need to be in touch with our inner child."
Cook with Whole Foods
APPLE Core participants will learn about whole-food nutrition, which emphasizes whole grains, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Cooking your own food and starting with natural ingredients is a huge first step toward healthy eating, according to Dr. Reiss.
Learn About Portion Sizes
Average American portion sizes have been creeping upward for decades. Learning what 3 ounces of meat or a half-cup of rice or pasta looks like on a plate is surprising for most of us, Dr. Reiss says.
"It's not what restaurants serve, or what we're used to serving at home," she says. "Portion size is really important when watching our weight."
Learn It Young
APPLE Core also focuses on the behavioral aspect of lifestyle changes. "To maintain or lose weight, you not only have to want to do it, you have to be willing to do the work," says Dr. Reiss. "All behavior modification takes work and discipline. That's why it's difficult."
"Thankfully, children are much more flexible and adaptable than adults," she adds. "It's always easier to reach them early and educate them early to adopt new and healthy behaviors."
To learn more about holistic weight management, talk to a nutrition team at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. Make an appointment by calling (206) 834-4100.
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