Everywhere you look, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: we as a country are getting bigger and bigger. Our cars, houses and unfortunately, even our bellies. America has been fighting, and losing, the ongoing battle against obesity. And like many unhealthy habits in life, the foundation for the behavior that breeds such issues starts in early childhood.
North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center is an outpatient mental health facility in Roslyn Heights, and recently hosted a lecture on childhood obesity by a member of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, according to Associate Executive Director Regina Barros.
“North Shore-LIJ is doing partnerships with nonprofit community agencies like us to provide information on pediatrics,” she said. “They asked what issues we would like address, and I pointed out that we have lots of overweight children…we really want them to get good eating habits.”
Dr. Ronald A. Feinstein, who gave the lecture, is a board-certified pediatrician who has sub-board certifications in adolescent medicine and sports medicine. Born and raised in New York and currently residing in Garden City after living out-of-state for the past 30 years, Feinstein serves as a professor of pediatrics and director of the Power Kids weight management program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. For the past 30 years he has focused on working with children and young adults.
“I don’t have to tell people that there’s an epidemic of overweight and obese children and adolescents, and unfortunately, they are more likely to become overweight and obese adults,” he said. “And when you’re an overweight or obese adults, you’re more likely to have serious health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.”
Feinstein notes that if the issue of obesity can be addressed in today’s youth, ideally to ultimately prevent it, the associated issues they could experience once they grow up could be nipped in the bud. However he said, there are a number of new factors that kids today are facing in that battle that their parents never encountered.
“Easy access to high caloric foods and the lack of physical activity are big issues, but the easy availability of social media and video games…basically, many of the changes that have occurred in our lifestyles in recent years figure in greatly,” he said. “It’s simple things, when you look at it. For example, I have a two-year-old grandson who was given a present of a motorized BMW…that takes away from the person peddling a little car of bicycle. This BMW takes away that physical activity.”
Parents need to be informed about the right choices to make when raising their children; Feinstein said that the foundation of any healthy program for youngsters is a concept that has been endorsed by the Academy of Pediatrics called “5-2-1-0,” which breaks down a simple formula for looking and feeling your best.
“At least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; limiting your screen-time—including iPods, iPhones and video games—to less than 2 hours a day; 1 hour of physical activity; and 0 sugar-sweetened drinks,” he said. “When you start talking to people about this, I have to laugh, because you have to remind them that things like chocolate-covered strawberries don’t count and you have to be careful about drinks…iced tea can be just as high in sugar and calories as a soda.”
Common sense, combined with some basic knowledge, are all the average mom or dad needs to ensure not only a healthy upbringing for their children, as well as improve their own well-being, Feinstein said.
“The key factor is that you know what proper nutrition is, and most people don’t,” he said. “But the 5-2-1-0 is a good foundation, and it’s a simple concept for everybody over 3 years of age, whether they’re over or underweight.”