You can’t tell kids anything

You know how invested I am in helping the youth of our nation avoid the fate that’s been set out for them…A future filled with obesity, diabetes, and disease.

And a new report in the journal Pediatrics raises an interesting point. It says that many pediatricians don’t talk to kids about lifestyle. Despite the raging obesity epidemic, too few kids and teenagers are getting advice from their medical doctors about healthy eating and physical activity.

The researchers, led by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, analyzed data on some 14,000 boys and girls between 11 to 17 years old.

And they found that less than half of the kids got any counseling of this type. Only 47 percent of girls and 44 percent of boys were advised to eat healthy. And only 36 percent of boys and girls were advised to exercise more.

The truly obese kids were most likely to get this advice, researchers found. Kids who were classified as “overweight” were less likely to hear it.

But based on my experience, treating kids in my clinic, just telling kids to eat healthy and exercise more won’t get you very far anyway.

You can’t just tell a kid to do something. In fact, that’s often a sure-fire way to make sure they DON’T do it. What works best is to set a good example.

SHOW them what they should do. Don’t TELL them.

I’m not just talking about pediatricians. Teachers are also role models. And, obviously, parents should be taking the lead here.

It’s your job to get the whole family involved in these lifestyle changes. Take field trips to the local farmers market. Ride your bikes! Let the kids help you fix lunches and dinners. Healthy ones. The only way to get kids to make their health a priority is if YOU make it one, too.

“Obesity Counseling by Pediatric Health Professionals: An Assessment Using Nationally Representative Data,” Pediatrics 2012, epub ahead of print 6/4/12