weight management for kids starts with body positivity

Talking about weight with your kids can be uncomfortable.  

But for kids in the Weigh Smart® program at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, those conversations are the first step toward building a more healthy lifestyle and body image.

… and chances are, if a child is an appropriate candidate for theWeigh Smart® program, they’re being teased at schools. And they want to have the conversation.

In these cases, weight is addressed as an indicator of other potential health issues like high cholesterol and disruptive sleep apnea. Using an integrated multidisciplinary approach including pediatric gastroenterologist, nurse practitioner, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, and physical therapists, the program aims to develop and deliver an individualized holistic care plan for each participant. Program education includes nutrition, cooking, food prep,  and physical movement components. Patients (and their families) can elect to participate in an 8 week group program or self-paced individual sessions.

Of course, weight loss indicates the program is working for an individual patient. But it’s not the overarching goal. 

“We truly believe in body positivity,” said Vicky Rogers, nurse practitioner with the program, “and I am particularly passionate about promoting healthy self-image. Body positivity and weight management are not mutually exclusive. It’s about being healthy and living a healthier lifestyle.”

A critical component to each patient’s success? Their families. It’s not only patients who get pedometers to log steps and keep tabs on their meals; their parents do as well.

“We don’t want to take kids who may already have self-esteem issues and set them up for failure,” said Michelle Demeule, program manager for Weigh Smart®. Part of ensuring their success starts with changing their environment. Both the patient and the parents/guardians need to be willing to get on board. 

Weigh Smart at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital - (cool) progeny

The program currently sees about 350 new patients each year, between the ages of 18 months and 18 years old. The average age is 12 and the average weight of an incoming patient is 200 pounds. Patients are closely monitored during activity sessions by trained medical staff members to ensure safety. Some easy ways they are encouraged to get moving? Taking a walk with their families or even getting a groove on with a dance party. (Which are really great ways to get any kid moving and ensure they get the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended minimum hour of exercise each day.)

The Weigh Smart® program uses a nutrition philosophy that resonated with me as a parent– and I bet will work with your kids, too! A stoplight approach to eating.

Green foods are high in nutrients, low in fat and calories. Think fruits and veggies — the ‘have ’em any time’ foods. Yellow foods are in the middle, foods to be cautious about. Red foods are those foods high in calories, fat, and sugar (yes, ice cream. That’s you). It’s not a ‘never have those’ foods approach. It’s the stop and think about them — and don’t always have them approach.

“We’re not about depriving because then they {the kids} always end up wanting them,” said Michelle. It’s about being cognizant of the foods you’re eating.

“It’s not about assigning good and bad labels to food… that we then start to assign to ourselves when we eat those foods,” said Vicky. 

That’s a great message for all of us, isn’t it?


Editor’s note: Learn more about Weigh Smart® by reading Quran’s story.


our sponsor: mt. washington pediatric hospital

This post is brought to you by Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

About Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital: Where Children go to Heal and Grow
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital is a specialty children’s hospital that treats more than 8,000 patients each year on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The 102-bed post-acute hospital specializes in family-focused treatment of children with serious, chronic and/or complex medical needs. MWPH has renown in feeding and sleep disorders, brain injury and rehabilitation, behavioral health and autism, neonatal transition, newborns transitioning from heroin dependence, and childhood obesity, among other service lines. Founded in 1922 as a children’s convalescent home, MWPH is a jointly owned affiliate of The University of Maryland Medical System and The Johns Hopkins Health System. To learn more, visit www.mwph.org.

Images and video provided by Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.


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About the Author heather

Heather is editor-in-chief of (cool) progeny. When not scouting the best in everything kid and family, you'll probably find her running The Weisse Group or adventuring around town with her daughter (the Bug), her son (the Little Lion Man), her daughter BabyM, and husband Patrick. Can be won over with a good glass of wine or something homemade. Addicted to Pinterest. A two-cups-of-coffee-a-day kinda gal. Only pretends to know what she's doing with her SLR, even though she's got a fantastic lens on it.Thankful it does most of the work for her. Navigating the world of special needs parenting. Trying to pay it forward one day at a time. #littlelionchallenge

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