Kids in an exercise and nutrition program in Buffalo happily recount their successes
OVERWEIGHT CHILDREN almost always lose weight and get healthier when given nutritional guidance and encouraged to exercise. For the past 25 years Leonard Epstein has operated the Childhood Weight Control Program, which in 1994 moved to the University of Buffalo, where Epstein is a professor of pediatrics. The two-year program for children ages eight to 12--six months of instruction in nutrition, body image, healthy eating and physical activity, followed by a checkup six months later and another one year after that--promotes daily exercise and the Traffic Light Eating Plan, which designates foods as red (unhealthy), yellow (better) and green (healthy). At least one parent must enroll with each child. "We believe everything starts in the home," Epstein says.
Three of the program's young participants talked with SI about their experiences.
GEORGE, AGE 12 Weight loss during first six months: 11 pounds (from 135 to 124). Growth: 0.9 inch.
"In fifth grade, when I started, I was short, with glasses, and you could say chubby. Every year when school started, I'd worry about what my classmates would think of me. But after I lost weight--and I got contact lenses, too--it was the first time in my life that I looked forward to starting school. I'm a hockey fanatic, but I used to be one of the slower kids. Now I'm such a faster skater."
HENRY, 10 Loss: 14 pounds (99 to 85). Growth: 0.7 inch.
"I didn't want to come here. It was my mom's idea. But it was fun. We did lots of things and got exercise every day. I love baseball, but every day I ride my bike to the park and play tag. Sometimes it's all older kids, and they get rides, so I'm last [to arrive], and we play newcomers are 'it,' so I'm 'it.' But I'm faster now. When my friends see me, they say, 'Good job.'"
JONATHAN, 10 Loss: 23 pounds (180 to 157). Growth: 1.7 inches. Both his parents joined him and lost 90 pounds combined.
"It's just fun to jump around and have a good time instead of sitting on the couch. I play skip-it [a jumping game with a rope and ball tied to one ankle] in my driveway and basketball with my dad, and my mom and I are always walking places together. If I get enough points [from my parents] for exercising and eating healthy foods, I can rent a video game. Last summer I had an inside-the-park home run in baseball. I'm a lot faster around the bases than I used to be." --T.L.