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Parents Hold the Key to Children's Fitness Success

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An important part of structured meals and snack times, according to both Buechner and Satter, is they teach kids to regulate their own eating habits. Part of that comes down to limits and responsibility, Satter tells WebMD.

Allowing kids to eat between scheduled meals and snacks can sabotage the process, both Buechner and Satter say.

Some formal, regimented diets "do not teach them the skills of 'normal' eating," Koenning tells WebMD. "When you're directed as to what you should eat instead of finding how to balance your choices of health and pleasure, you're not developing the skills you need to maintain it."

So, if a child is overweight, is it always the parent's fault? Though parents are always willing to take the blame, says Satter, that's too simple. Cultural changes also apply pressure, say experts, such as a business world that places productivity over nurturing, kids spending too much time alone, and even communities designing subdivisions without sidewalks.

"In my experience, parents do the best they can," says Satter. Buechner agrees, saying "in terms of obesity at any age, the causes are multifactorial."

But that doesn't let the parent off the hook. Yes, it's a team effort, but the parent remains the coach. "Child obesity can be prevented from birth on by optimizing the child's nutritional and physical environment. That's really key," says Satter.

From a parent to parents, Beasley has this advice: "[You] have to be willing to commit yourself to helping your child and I don't know any parent that's not willing to do that, and that's all this is."

For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases and Conditions Weight Control page.

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