Healthy Resolutions for Real Success

With the New Year comes many a plan to change our ways, to break a bad habit, start exercising, or eat healthier. Many of us also know how easily New Year’s resolutions can become a thing of the past. For kids especially, learning healthy habits and sticking to them—New Year’s or not—can be the key to a long, happy life. So what steps can really make a difference?

“The tradition of a ‘resolution’ usually involves a diet or short-term idea,” says Cindy Zedeck, manager of the Pediatric Weight Control Program at Stanford Medicine Children’s Hospital. “The key is to set yourself up for success with small steps, and then celebrate every small success along the way. It’s a process—and it has to be a positive experience if it’s going to last.”

Too often, Zedeck explains, parents of overweight kids often feel responsible, and their effort to solve the problem and help their child may be focused on what the child isn’t doing or shouldn’t be doing. Zedeck and her team have years of experience helping children and families change their health through a few key tools developed through the Pediatric Weight Control Program.

Here are a sample of tools:

  1. Set small goals: “Resolutions usually set the bar too high,” says Zedeck. “You don’t meet the big goal; you feel terrible; and then you stop everything.” Instead, she says, start small. If you don’t work out at all, plan just one activity per week to start. Then set a new goal for adding an additional activity.
  2. Change your environment: Your home is the one place you can really control, so make it healthy. Clear the clothes off your exercise machine and put it near a window. Get rid of all the ‘red light’ (unhealthy) foods and stock up on healthy choices. Put your running shoes near the front door where you’ll see them and be reminded to use them. Dust off the tennis rackets, jump ropes, basketball and hula hoops.
  3. Have roles: In one family, it’s the mom’s job during the holidays to receive the plate of sugary treats, say thank you, and then get rid of it. It’s her son’s job to select that weekend’s active family outing. There are many roles, great and small, in a healthy lifestyle. Talk with your family and rotate roles as you go forward.
  4. Plan non-food rewards: Make a list of the non-food and non-dollar rewards that you and your kids can enjoy when you achieve each small goal—a trip to the beach, local park or pool, a favorite board game, flying a kite, or putting tickets in jar so each success adds up to a larger reward. Talk about rewards, and make a list of what kids and parents would each enjoy.
  5. Use the buddy system and team support: It’s always more fun to have a friend or family member making the journey with you. Signing up for a new activity can help kids meet new friends, a reward in itself for doing something fun.
  6. Practice simple journaling: Each day, record what you ate and what activity you did. “Journaling builds awareness,” says Zedeck. “It helps us learn to think about what we eat and the choices we make.”

When kids and families need more support, joining a program can be a life-changing step. The Stanford Medicine Children’s Pediatric Weight Control Program is a six-month program to help kids aged 8 to 15 and their families develop life-long healthy habits. The program is now enrolling for January, with scholarships available for those who qualify. No referrals necessary, just call (650) 725-4424.