Want to fight the battle of the bulge in your clan? Then here's your war plan: Identify the enemy, build a fat-fighting arsenal and win the support of your allies (that would be your family members). After all, you don't want to find yourself trapped in some caloric quagmire., men and children are bigger, but not better than ever, while women at least have held firm in the weight department -- not a major accomplishment, since a third of them are already obese.
So who's to blame and what to do?
"We won't likely be able to define a single cause nor a single solution. But together, the environment has changed to promote increased food intake and reduced activity," says Dr. William Dietz, director of the nutrition and physical activity division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.That means you'll have to wage a multipronged attack:
Enemy -- Supersizing: "Portion sizes have insidiously increased," says Dr. Lisa Hark, Director of the Nutrition Education and Prevention Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and host of the TLC network’s new family-nutrition makeover show, 'Honey, We’re Killing the Kids.' "You look at a fast-food burger compared to 20 years ago and it’s bigger, and the fries are bigger. The smallest drink you can get at a movie theater looks like a large, doesn't it? You can’t even get small portions now."
Battle Plan: Hark suggests always sharing entrees when eating out; stop eating before you feel full; use smaller plates at home.
Enemy -- Takeout Mania: "People are eating out more," says Hark. "You get bigger portions, more calories."Battle Plan: Cook at home! "Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains," says Hark, who co-authored the new book, 'The Whole Grain Miracle Diet.' Hark recalled the first family refrigerator she investigated on 'Honey.' "It was all take-out containers and packaged, processed foods. I said to them, 'You see these bins down here? These are fruits and vegetable bins.' Empty."
How Does Your Family Rate?
Enemy -- The Tube: Where are kids not burning calories these days? In front of the TV, whether they're just watching or playing video games. "The TV has become the central focus of the family," says Hark. "Parents and children are watching six to 10 hours a day. Many families have more TVs than people."
Battle Plan: Get moving every day -- at least one hour of physical activity. "Try to get the children to do anything from dancing in the house to hula hooping to jumping rope to running around and playing tag to rollerblading, biking, badminton, baseball, walking. Anything," says Hark.
Enemy -- Sweets: "Sugar is everywhere," says Hark. "Americans are consuming 130 pounds a year. In a child's one-day diet, they can be eating 10 servings -- they really should only be getting one: about 10 teaspoons.
Battle Plan: "Consume water instead of soft drinks," says Dietz, "particularly in children, where soft drinks account for a significant portion of calories." Hark, meanwhile, recommends a one-sweet-treat-a-day limit. "If you’re going to have that Pop Tart, then that’s it," and remember, Hark says, "the body doesn’t secrete sugar."