Curbing Appetites in Children
Dr. Peter Nieman

My attention was caught by a newspaper headline which read, "Appetite-curbing hormone found to cut calorie intake 30%." The research which triggered this headline was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Sept. 4, 2003. London researchers injected volunteers with a hormone called YY3-36, or PYY for short and it seemed to work. Recipients ate less for the next 24 hours.

Now we may have, potentially at least, another tool to battle the epidemic of obesity. However, there are far more questions than answers related to this new "kid on the block." And, more and more hunger-squashing products are on the horizon.

In my opinion, the answer does not lie in pills. Genetics cannot be changed. One can try a diet. There are many diets currently to choose from, each claiming to have the correct recipe for success. Or, one can focus more on exercise. Surgery to change the gastrointestinal tract’s anatomy is a last, ultimate and desperate choice, and this has almost no place in managing young obese children.

I am privileged to have trained at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston at their Weigh of Life Program. It was there that I learned a valuable lesson: the long-term answer for weight issues lies in lifestyle changes.

Here are a few key thoughts regarding those changes:

  • Make daily activity for 30 minutes your goal, all year round. It should be convenient, consistent, and comfortable.
  • The child should moderately exert themselves, and should get their heart rate and breathing rate significantly increased during the activity.
  • Do the activities with the child; have a fixed time to do it.
  • Reduce the amount of C-foods: cookies, coke, candy, cheese, crackers and chocolates.
  • Eat only in one place and eat slowly. Increase the amount of protein, and have protein with every meal.
  • Take the TV out of the bedroom.
  • Journal all your child’s physical activities and nutritional habits.

There are many more points to cover, but the key message here is to avoid disappointment — the answer will never come from a pill or an injection that makes you eat less! Exercise is one of the key tools when it comes to winning the war. So, dust off those running shoes, get sweaty and do it today. Don’t wait to start next week or next month. The best time is now.

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