Helping with healthy choices

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. A child being overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Trinity Health and the Minot Family YMCA will be offering “TLC: Teen Lifestyle Choices,” a 12-week nutrition education and physical improvement program for pre-teens and teens ages 11 to 15. The program, which will meet on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m., begins on Feb. 26 and ends on May 14. There will be nutrition education from 5:15 to 5:50 p.m., followed by the fitness portion from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Classes will take place at the Minot Family YMCA, 3515-16th St. SW. Cost is $30 per child and they do not have to be Y members in order to join.

Parents interested in having their pre-teens or teens participate in the program can call the YMCA at 852-0141 or stop by, or a physician can refer the child to the program.

Dr. Ann Cadwalader, pediatrician with Trinity Health, and Alyssa Hobbs, dietician with Trinity Health, will be the instructors for the nutrition portion of the program. Teen Lifestyle Choices is geared toward 11- to 15-year-olds, Cadwalader said, because they wanted to be inclusive and target those teens with excess weight. Amy Moen, financial development director for the Minot Family YMCA, who is also involved in the program, said they had tried this program last year, but had kids there who were just looking for something to do. This time, the program is targeting those teens who are over 85 percent in their body mass index for their age, Cadwalader said.

The nutrition lessons will focus on the “My Plate” model and participants will keep food logs that will be checked each week, with suggestions on how to make the best model of My Plate, Cadwalader explained.

“It’ll be kind of extensive,” she added. There will also be lessons on empty calories, whole foods, eating out, portion distortion and other food topics.

For the physical activity portion of the program, the activities will be geared toward kids and designed to be fun, Moen said, like breakdancing or “Drums Alive,” a fitness class that focuses on rhythm and movement.

“We want to focus on fun activities,” Moen said. “And we’ll have weekly weigh-ins because you can’t just talk about weight (control), you need to make it your lifestyle.”

They also want parental involvement, Moen said, because without that, success in eating healthier is lower. YMCA instructors will lead the fitness portion of the program.

“We’ll reinforce guidelines,” Cadwalader said. “This isn’t a diet program, but a lifestyle change.”

The idea to offer nutrition and fitness classes for teens came from John Kutch, CEO of Trinity Health, Cadwalader said. He commissioned Cadwalader and the Minot Family YMCA wanted to get involved as well, so it worked out, she explained.

“It’s a nice collaboration because ‘the Y’ is going to have the outdoor fitness trail,” Moen added.

From the Teen Lifestyle Choices program, Cadwalader said she and the other instructors would like to see tangible results with weight loss and measurements, and hope to see improvements in teens’ lifestyles.

The Teen Lifestyle Choices program is being offered to help show a tangible commitment to improvements in health, Cadwalader said, and there was a need.

“There wasn’t much available for this age group, either,” she said. “People seem more receptive to the topic, too, and we’re trying to answer what to do about it.”

“We want it to be an ongoing program and for the teens to be successful,” Moen said.

Obesity in teens could probably be described as an epidemic, Cadwalader noted, and shows no signs of improving.

“It has more than doubled in children, putting the current obesity rate in pediatric and adolescent patients to 18 percent. By 2030, half of adults will be overweight or obese,” she said.

The increase in overweight and obese teens who Cadwalader has treated seems to parallel the national statistics, she said, and in her career here that increase probably also fits the national trends. Cadwalader said she has been seeing more patients with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.

Both Cadwalader and Moen think it’s important for overweight teens and their parents to participate in the Teen Lifestyle Choices program.

“Studies have shown that lifestyle changes have to start in the household and it’s difficult to have success with weight loss anyway,” Cadwalader said. “So if we can involve the household, then it will be easier.”

“It’s a local issue that pediatricians are seeing and we’re trying to provide families with some tools to help them,” Moen added. “It will be a fun class, but kids will have to be accountable.”

“We feel pretty prepared to offer these classes,” Cadwalader said.