Sep 28 2010

Weight Gaining Weekends: How to Prevent W-G-W! Graehm Gray

I want to start this column by thanking all of the people that send in comments and letters regarding my articles. It’s nice to know that my words are being read and are triggering thoughts and opinions. This past week, I received the most letters so far, pertaining to my column “Medical Clearance for Student Athletes: Add an ECG and Echo.” It seems that this hit a sensitive spot among parents and coaches. It should! Providing the best care for our children who enter sports programs should be a priority. Who among us doesn’t feel a gut wrenching sensation when we read about a young child that has died prematurely, whether on an athletic field or other setting? It stings. So when we are actually able to help prevent this from happening, we need to take full advantage. I will continue to be an advocate for using current medical technology and better pre-participation methods to evaluate our children prior to entering a sports program.

Now I want to discuss a problem that has been occurring on a regular basis: the “W-G-W effect”-weight-gaining weekends! Our kids are gaining extra weight on the weekends-why? What do we know? How many of us gain weight on the weekend too?

We already know that kids spend somewhere in the neighborhood of between 2-4 hours daily on the television and internet. This is during the school week. What happens on the weekends? Well, according to the latest study1 researchers determined that this TV and internet time actually doubles! Our kids are even more techno-attached than during the week. Boys are playing more video games while girls are surfing the “net.” Is it the computer or TV in their rooms? Some studies2 say yes! “Middle school children who have a television or computer in their room sleep less during the school year, watch more TV (an hour more), play more computer games and surf the net an hour more than their peers who don’t. What else do we know? Well, we also know from research4 that kids in the United States over the age of 2 years old consume at least 82 calories more,  including extra 4.4 grams of fat per day-Friday, Saturday and Sunday, than they do during the weekdays.

We all know that lack of sleep is related to childhood obesity. Children on the weekend sleep less. From sleep research3, we know that obese kids go to sleep later and sleep less than their non obese counterparts. Finally, we are all aware of the research from England5 showing that kids are doing less exercises before and after school. And with the increased techo and TV time spent on the weekend-this adds up to less active time!  It all seems to be heading in the same direction: more techno/TV time, more energy intake (food intake), less exercise time, less sleep, greatly increasing the obesity risk.

So, there you have it. We all know the problems. Its not an unsolved mystery-Its proven scientific research. What can we do to help our kids? We want answers!

Ten Steps For a Healthy Weekend:

  1. Cut down the entertainment television and techno time. Our kids need both modalities for school-however we need to really limit the non educational usage. With TIVO, any and everything can be recorded for a later playback.
  2. Add equal exercise time for all time spent in front of the computer or TV.
  3. Get rid of all the unhealthy snacks in the house and reload with healthy choices. Good fuel would be: fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, zero percent fat yogurts and lean proteins. And if you are into cooking, check out healthy snacks at www.foodnetwork.com/search/healthy-snacks
  4. Make sure kids don’t eat sugars (or caffeine) 3 hours before bedtime-this could affect sleep patterns.
  5. Keep kids active on the weekend with exercise, playtime, walks or any activity to keep them moving. This will help them from becoming planted in front of their computer or TV.
  6. Monitor your kids eating and snacking on the weekends. Weekend birthday parties add lots of extra fat and sugar calories that need to burned off. When kids are at home, they make a constant path to the kitchen and fridge.
  7. Be good role models for your kids-if your kids see you eating healthy and exercising-this will rub off in a positive way.
  8. Be careful with sweetened, high calorie, protein and electrolyte loaded drinks. Some of these drinks are designed for sports (i.e. heavy duty workouts) refueling and even as a meal replacement. They have become a boutique designer casual fluid replacement. They pack a big load and kids are drinking them in between meals and with a meal.  
  9. Get your kids to bed at a reasonable time on the weekend. Don’t use TV and or computer time in bed as a award. Reading or writing before sleep is fine. Kids need rest!
  10. Spend family time with your kids. Get to know them, their likes and dislikes, their choice of foods, television programs, sports. Find out about their school work. Get involved. Parents that remain involved with their kids have an incredibly positive effect on their children’s behavior. Remember, be a role model-if you do it, if you eat in a healthy manner, exercise and stay fit, there is a greater chance that your child will too!

My friends, stay fit and healthy The New Nerdel Way. 

Sources used for the preparation of this article:

  1. Juan P. Rey-López, Germán Vicente-Rodriguez, Francisco B. Ortega, Jonatan R. Ruiz, David Martinez-Gómez, Stefan De Henauw, Yannis Manios, Denes Molnar, Angela Polito, Maite Verloigne, Manuel J. Castillo, Michael Sjöström, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Luis A. Moreno and on behalf of the HELENA Study Group. Sedentary patterns and media availability in European adolescents: The HELENA study. Preventive Medicine, 51:50-55 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2010.03.013
  2. University of Haifa (2008, September 5). Children With TVs Or Computers In Their Room (www.haifa.ac.il)
  3. Olds et al. Day type and the relationship between weight status and sleep duration in children and adolescents. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010; 34 (2): 165 DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00502.x
  4. Obesity Research (2003) 11, 945–949; doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.130 Weekend Eating in the United States Is Linked with Greater Energy, Fat, and Alcohol Intake Pamela S. Haines, Mary Y. Hama, David K. Guilkey and Barry M. Popkin     
  5. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article6161284.ece: Children do less exercise  despite obesity risk: David Rose
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