How can I keep my family healthy and prevent childhood obesity?


Childhood obesity can often lead to adult obesity, and it’s growing in epidemic proportions in the U.S. With the abundance of tempting foods around us, large portion sizes that are cheap and easily available and the relative lack of physical activity opportunities, keeping a healthy weight is all that much more difficult.

As a parent, it’s important to encourage physical activity that the kids find to be fun. That is key to sustaining a lifelong interest in keeping fit. Limit screen time to a minimum, and reward often for such behavior.

The other part of the equation for keeping a healthy weight is, of course, healthy eating habits. Parents should act as a role model by eating well themselves. This may mean gradual, small steps toward a healthier eating pattern, and eliminating unhealthy foods/drinks one at a time.

Keep all junk food out of your pantry shelves, so temptation is curbed. In addition, fill up first on the healthy foods, i.e., salads and healthy proteins, before a small amount of dessert. Replace unhealthy desserts with fruit/nut/yogurt combinations.

Take your kids shopping with you, and learn to read food labels together. Everyone should know exactly what is entering your bodies.


What do I do if I don’t agree with what my physician tells me to do?

Communication with your physician can be quite tricky. Usually, physicians offer advice based on their best interpretation and understanding of your health condition.

Sometimes, however, they may not factor in all the issues that are important to the patient. There are several ways to avoid getting possible misguided advice.

First, when telling the history of your illness, also mention what about it worries you, such as, “I am worried this could be cancer,” and what you’ve already tried, for example, “I’ve already tried the following over-the-counter medicines for a three-day period.” This should save you some frustration and some time at the end of the visit.

If you think there’s been good communication, but you are still not satisfied with the treatment plan, in a respectful way, you may try saying, “I appreciate you giving me this medication, but you must know I don’t feel it’s right for me (due to cost, worries about side effects, interactions with other medications, previous failed trial of this medication). Is there any other option?”

Alternatively, if you feel a diagnosis is not correct, you may say, “My concern is that I could also be having … What are your thoughts about that?” In this way, your physician goes into an explanation mode, instead of a defensive mode.


To the Times-Union reader who asked about autoimmune disease and “cluster syndromes”:

The Florida Academy of Family Physicians encourages you to visit the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) website at: where you will find information on more than 50 topics related to rheumatic diseases. If you have additional questions or comments about the patient resources, please contact ACR at or (404) 633-3777.


Nipa Shah practices family medicine in Jacksonville.