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Parents Hold the Key to Children's Fitness Success

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After 12 weeks, Beasley says she's pleased with the results. Chris has lost about 18 pounds, he's more active, and he's "learned an awful lot of about nutrition, things to look for on the labels, how important it is to drink water vs. all the Cokes he was putting away." Beasley, who's struggled with her weight, also has modified her eating habits, such as eating until satisfied instead of stuffed.

Koenning says it's important that obese people listen to their body's own cues. "Responding to cues of hunger and fullness to stop and start eating, that's a big area of disconnect for kids, and I'd say people in general, with a problem of obesity. They have lost the sensory gauging ... to body signals," Koenning tells WebMD.

Buechner's program also puts a strong emphasis on parenting skills while stressing exercise. The program "focuses on developing fitness habits in children and not focusing on weight change. Our goal, first of all, is to help parents partner with their children in family fitness behaviors," Buechner tells WebMD.

This is about exercising for health, though, not exercising to achieve some advertising ideal. Satter emphasizes the need for parents to let children find their natural body weight, which can vary as they grow. And don't overreact if your child gains a few pounds, because some kids naturally gain a little weight, for instance, right before the onset of puberty or a growth spurt. Koenning says respect the child's "developmental stages. To help prevent excessive weight gain and obesity before it develops, keep exercise enjoyable.

Buechner tells WebMD that her program also places an emphasis on proper nutrition, but within a healthy eating environment. "We don't focus so much as on what to eat, but on how to eat well as a family ... we strongly emphasize family meals in our program," Buechner tells WebMD.

Satter couldn't agree more; family meals are central to her philosophy. "If you're going to optimize your child's nutrition, if you're going to give him the very greatest chance that he possibly can of growing up to get the body that is right for him or her, that absolutely mandates family meals; that's the bottom line," Satter tells WebMD.

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