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Let’s Move: The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Mental Health

By Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S

Mental HealthObesity in childhood has been discussed through and through. The lack of physical education and recess in schools plays a part.

Television, internet, and driving down the road all put unhealthy food choices into our line of site. Options to play hard outside are met up against video games, television, texting, and the latest electronics. The cost of healthy foods is significantly higher than quick and easy choices. When you ask many children what they want to eat, a fast food restaurant or unhealthy snack is usually first on the list. It is not often you hear a child ask for vegetables or hummus. According to the Center for Disease Control, the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past thirty years. With the reduction of activity and poor food choices, parents will see signs of lowered self esteem, signs of depression, and often the lack of behavioral regulation by their children. Food and exercise are a large piece of mental health needs. As a parent, setting an example and being a healthy role model is the first key component to overcoming childhood obesity. Modeling positive food choices, prioritizing exercise, sleep, and turning off electronics shows children where to put their focus. A priority also needs to be for parents to be their child’s cheerleader. Supporting and encouraging your children in making healthy food and exercise choices that become part of their daily routine shows the children

that you are their ally in life. The whole family should be involved in healthy eating together. Normalizing choices and finding ways to enjoy adding more vegetables and less carbs and sugars is critical. There are many recipes that include vegetables into food items such as pancakes and breads. Eating out and on the go is unavoidable in today’s society. Setting the example by choosing food options carefully and providing a variety of fruits, vegetables, low-fat snacks that are easily accessible is important. Many restaurants now post in store or, at a minimum, on their website, calorie counts for their menu. The quickest and cheapest isn’t the best.

Recognizing when your child is an emotional eater is critical. Many individuals, including children, turn to food when under stress. School exams, parental separation, death, or other life changing events cause many to turn to eating when they are not hungry. When you recognize the symptoms of unhealthy eating and the signs of obesity in children, a more active, energetic family can become reborn! The US government has launched a campaign called “Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids.” It can be found at: http://www.letsmove.gov/ The website shows that the role of preventing childhood obesity

Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Central Florida, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Florida (#SW8379), and a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor through the Association for Play Therapy. Tara also specializes in Play Therapy with children 2 -18 years old, as well as incorporates pet-assisted play therapy into some of her clinical work utilizing her two dogs Abbey and Bode. Tara has worked in a variety of therapeutic roles including foster care, non-profit family counseling, non-profit individual counseling, elementary school based counseling programs, adolescent drug prevention/intervention, behavioral therapy with autism, domestic violence counseling, and supervised visitation, in addition to her private practice. Tara’s counseling approach is client centered in that each session is unique to meet the client’s needs and utilizes tools that are most effective for the client such as play, music, pets, and art. More often with the younger children, non-directive and directive modalities of play therapy are utilized. Cognitive-behavioral approaches and family system approaches are also utilized.

Learn more on our website at www.deltafamilycounseling.com

Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S 239-540-1155

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