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Tackling childhood obesity

The secret to helping children grapple with obesity is no secret at all, parents and professionals say.

Nutritious meals, limited portions, daily exercise and constant vigilance are the keys to losing – or maintaining – weight.

“There’s no magic bullet,” says Wayne Harris, Cody’s dad.

Dr. Judith O’Connor, a specialist at the Feeding and Growth Clinic at Sacred Heart Children’s Center in Spokane, says: “It’s a lifestyle change that involves the whole family. And everybody has to buy into it.” Changes include philosophical shifts about feeding and nutrition. And they include practical shifts about everything from shopping to cooking.

Shopping: “First thing you do is change how you go through a store,” says O’Connor. Shop the edges of the supermarket, the aisles full of fresh vegetables, lean meat and produce. Dodge through the health care products aisle if you must, but don’t even go down the rows of snacks and sodas.

“If you don’t go there, you can’t buy it,” she says.

Cooking: Families struggling with obesity have more control over what they eat if they prepare the food themselves.

Eating out: The Harris family of Post Falls has adopted a routine approach to huge portion sizes in restaurants. When 6-year-old Cody’s plate arrives, his mother removes half the food and asks for a to-go box. With the extra portion out of sight, Cody is satisfied with less.

JoNel Aleccia

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