Losing weight as an individual can be next to impossible if you don’t have some sort of support group or guidance. Instead of going it alone, get your entire family in on the action. Recent studies have shown that households who decide to make healthy lifestyle changes together are much more successful in achieving their goals than individuals who try to do it alone.
A study published in the journal Obesity, followed two groups of households for one year. Half of the households took part in a wellness intervention, while the other half did not. The households which were a part of the intervention were given goals. Examples of the goals are: cut TV viewing time in half, do 30 minutes of activity a day, limit high-calorie snack foods and eat more fruits and vegetables. At the end of the study, the intervention households ate sweets and snack foods far less often, teens had increased their fruit and vegetable intake and adults were consuming far less snacks, sweets and sweetened beverages. Intervention households ate out less, watched TV less and spent more time doing physical activity.
The reasons why change is more successful for households are pretty apparent. When the entire household is committed to change, the whole environment can be modified. When one person in the family is on a diet, but the rest of the family is still eating junk food, the dieter is constantly being tempted by unhealthy food choices. If the whole family is trying to eat healthier and more balanced, then those unhealthy foods will no longer be such a temptation because there would be no reason to have them in the home. Instead of being tempted every time you look in the fridge, you only have to say no to junk food once – at the grocery store.
There is also less sabotage when families change together. The sabotage I’m talking about isn’t outright sabotage, the offending family member may not even realize what they are doing. Examples are when a family member eats a huge helping of dessert in front of the dieter, stocks the fridge with the dieter’s favorite soda, refuses to eat or makes fun of the new foods the dieter is eating. Instead of supporting the family member who is trying to make a change for the better, the household is making it terribly hard for that person to progress and reach their goals.
When families change together, there is accountability and rapport. Instead of unknowingly sabotaging each other, family members work together and support each other. You can celebrate each other’s victories and push each other to keep going when you have a setback.
And, it turns out, changing as a family is even more important when you have a child who is overweight or obese. Australian researchers started targeting parents of overweight children, instead of the children themselves, to help the kids lose weight. The parents were educated about nutrition and exercise; they were taught how to be a good role model and how to set limits for their children. Parents also set their own goals for change. By the end of 6 months, the children’s body mass index and their waist circumference dropped an average of 10%. When researchers checked in 18 months later, they found the children had kept the weight off.
It is crucial that parents get educated and make changes themselves if there is an overweight child involved. The parents are the ones who control the environment – what the child eats, how much they eat, how much activity they get, etc. If the child is having weight problems the environment needs to be changed, which means the parents need to change as well. A child isn’t going to make changes himself; the parents have to be the ones to show them what’s healthy and what isn’t; they have to set the precedent and live the healthy lifestyle they want for their children.
If you want to start making changes for yourself and your family, but aren’t sure how to get started, check out our new family wellness program! We are having a FREE teleseminar on June 9 at 7 PM with lots of information and tips on how to get your family on the right track and an official unveiling of the Summer Family Challenge.
Stein, Jeannine “When lifestyle interventions target household, change may be possible” Los Angeles Times. January 10, 2011.
Goodwin, Jenifer “Changing Parental Behavior May Help Obese Kids Lose Weight” HealthDay. January 25, 2011.