Stories about: Optimal Weight for Life

Boston Children’s expert appears in The Weight of the Nation documentary

Tonight at 8 pm, HBO will debut a four-part documentary series, The Weight of the Nation, an unflinching look at the severity of the obesity crisis in America, and its crippling effect on our nation’s health and economy.

HBO and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences have joined forces to bring together the nation’s foremost experts on weight and weight loss for a frank and educational look at obesity in America. The series explains how weight became such an issue in this country and provides answers for how we can get to a healthy weight by overcoming the forces that drive us to eat too much and move too little.

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Children's in the news

Have you heard about the new kids’ book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”? It’s basically a retelling of the age-old ugly ducking fable, but with a modern twist. In this reenactment, the duckling is a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet, and with a little hard work goes from being an overweight, self-conscious kid to a star soccer player and the most popular girl in school.

The book may stress the importance of healthful eating and exercise, but many people are finding fault with the author’s emphasis on the thin = happy storyline, instead of focusing on the importance of health.

Among the critics is our own Dr. Claire, who was on New England Cable News this morning to talk about Maggie, childhood obesity and how to send kids the right message about health and weight.

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Food for thought: The war against childhood obesity

Daivd Ludwig, MD, PhD

For David Ludwig, MD, PhD, one of health’s most fundamental truths can be traced back to a 2,000-year-old quote from Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”

It’s a simple but powerful philosophy, and when combined with current research in obesity prevention, it’s one of the cornerstones of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Clinic. “Hippocrates was right, nutrition really is the foundation for health and well-being,” says Ludwig. “He understood that intuitively, without access to the modern science and technology.”

Founded by Ludwig in 1996, OWL is a multidisciplinary clinic with a staff that includes physicians, nurses, dietitians and experts in child behavior. With Ludwig at the helm, OWL has spent the past decade and a half researching childhood obesity while serving over 1,500 patients a year, making it one of the largest and most respected childhood obesity clinics in America. Now, thanks to a $7 million grant provided by the New Balance Foundation, Ludwig and his team will be able to expand their clinical research, patient care and community health programs. The newly created New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center will bring Ludwig’s message to even more children and communities struggling with weight issues.

Since he was 8 years old, Ludwig has been captivated by the inner workings of the human body. By the time he finished the fourth grade he had read every physiology book on the shelves of his local library.

That fascination stayed with him throughout his education. When he began his pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Children’s, he focused his studies on diet and weight, researching how brain function affects body size, as well as the role genetics plays in why some people become obese and others do not.

But with childhood obesity already reaching epidemic status by the mid-1990s, Ludwig felt a more preventive approach was needed to remedy the mounting health problems that overweight children would face in the future.

“Our genes, though important, haven’t caused the epidemic—so we need to look to the environment for the answers,” he says.

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It’s no secret that most kids aren’t exactly crazy about healthy eating. Many growing taste buds prefer pizza to carrots, leaving plenty of parents and educators at a loss for how to get the children in their lives to eat better. From hip marketing campaigns to health food product placement— not too mention good, old-fashioned trickery— there are plenty of way to try to get kids to eat right, but there isn’t a sure fire method that’s proven to work.

To help parents in their quest for healthier kids, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Optimal Weight for Life program, recently spoke with Parade magazine, offering practical advice on ways parents can drive home the importance of a well balanced diet. Here’s an excerpt:

“Young children are like ducks: They do what their parents do,” says Harvard endocrinologist Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston. If you eat junk food instead of fruits and vegetables, they will too.”

A University of Tennessee study reports that mothers usually refrain from offering babies foods they themselves dislike—so if you hate fava beans, chances are that your child has never tried them. Still, says Dr. Ludwig, it’s never too late to become a good role model. Explain to children that real foods—like fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, fish and meat—come from nature. Dr. Ludwig recommends that obese children keep food diaries, recording all of the sugary drinks and factory-processed junk foods they eat in a day. They’ll be astonished at how many they consume. Kids may moan, but they’ll get hungry and learn to replace cheese puffs with low-fat cheese.

For great advice on other ways parents can make healthy eating easier, check out the entire article here.

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