U.S. program involves whole family to tackle child obesity

Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:03am EDT
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By Rick Wilking

DENVER (Reuters Life!) - Zachary had always been a big child but when he turned 10, his weight started to rise rapidly and he stopped going outside to play.

His parents, who had thought Zachary would "grow into his weight," become concerned as their son seemed to lose his zest for life and any interest in taking part in anything active.

This led his mother, Leslie Frantzen, to sign Zachary up to a 10-week weight program at The Children's Hospital in Denver called the Shapedown Program which teaches not just the child but also the parents about nutrition, the emotional side of eating -- and that exercise can be fun.

"Like many families, we have had our share of struggles and trials in life. Zachary has always been our "sensitive" child. He internalized these life challenges more than we realized," Leslie Frantzen told Reuters.

"I always knew that I turned to food to "self-medicate" but I had no idea that children do that, too ... Shapedown has helped us, as parents, know how to validate Zach's feelings and how to help him understand them and work through them."

Since signing onto the program in March, Zachary has lost about six pounds, trimming down from 134 pounds, and seen a 6.4 percent decrease in his body mass index (BMI) which measures body fatness based on a person's weight and height.

"More importantly, Zach's moods have improved dramatically. He smiles more! He is motivated and excited about life again. He helps our family remember what is healthy," said Frantzen.

Zachary is one of about 200 children referred by their pediatrician every year to attend the Shapedown Program which has a non-diet approach to weight management.   Continued...