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Create a Family Wellness Culture

January 12, 2015

The problem of children's poor health in the U.S. does not stop with obesity, said Dr. Nimali Fernando, a pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project.

"Childhood obesity is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface lies the other 70 percent of children, many of whom may be of normal body weight but suffer from diet-related illnesses.

"In my practice I see these illnesses like chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety, and difficulties with attention and concentration. So many of these symptoms are directly related to the diet," Fernando said.

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Here are his tips to create a culture of wellness in your family.

1. Cook together. So many families find cooking to be a chore at the end of the day. Involve the whole family in meal preparation and use that time to connect with your children. Show kids that spending time preparing fresh foods together is a way to take care their bodies. If kids learn to cook from a young age, it gives them confidence and skills essential for leading a healthy life.

2. Play together. Find physical activities that you enjoy and do these as a family. Revive traditions and build healthy habits by incorporating fun activities like a walk every Sunday after church or a family bike ride after lunch at Grandma's house.

3. Be a role model. Kids can learn healthy habits most effectively if their parents model that same behavior. This doesn't mean parents have to be perfect, but showing that you are working on being healthier can inspire kids to do the same.

4. Get everyone involved. When a family makes a commitment to be healthy, get everyone to buy in. Draft a family mission statement and include a line about how your family strives to be healthy. Encourage everyone to sign it. Include extended family in your culture of wellness, too.

5. Connect with others. Families are most successful in sustaining healthy habits if they have connections with others who are doing the same. Cook healthy potlucks with family friends, talk to your children's schools about creating wellness initiatives and form a walking group with co-workers. Support from peers serves as powerful fuel for your family's positive health changes.



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