As parents, you always want what’s best for your child. In Sheryl and Savio’s case, they wanted what was best for both their babies – twin boys born prematurely. Dominic and Joshua were born at 35 weeks and weighed only 3.5 pounds each. After two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, the boys were finally strong enough to go home.
Sheryl and Savio were determined to do what they could to help the boys grow into healthy, strong and happy little ones – even if that meant chasing them around the house begging them to have one more bite of food. “I wanted the boys to gain weight their whole life, and until they were 10 years old, I encouraged them to eat all the food on their plates – hoping that this would help them catch up in size with their friends,” Sheryl says. “Little did I know, it was leading to unhealthy eating behaviors.”
As the boys grew older, they rapidly gained weight leading them to have an unhealthy BMI. When Sheryl took the boys to their pediatrician two years ago, the doctor suggested they participate in the Get Up & Go program, a weight management and healthy living program offered by Children’s Health℠ through local YMCA’s.
A new way of thinking about portions and healthy eating
“When Dominic and Joshua were little, they were so small,” says Sheryl. “I offered large portions at mealtime to help them gain weight, and they preferred to drink juice or milk over water.” Sheryl says the boys would eat even after they were full, but because she wanted them to grow into big, strong boys, she didn’t think it was a problem.
The Get up & Go program offered the Chacko family and their boys the chance to set goals together as a family and better understand portion size and healthy eating. The program leaders provided tips on cooking, helped them understand food labels, how to make a food plan and how to track what the family ate on a daily basis.
“It was very insightful,” Sheryl says. “And I loved how the kids in the program would come together and have fun – either preparing a healthy snack, talking about friendships and school, having fun participating in physical activity and exercise together, or playing basketball and volleyball. The leaders made exercise and connecting with one another fun for the kids.”
“We knew we had to make the commitment to heath as a family,” says Sheryl. The journey for Sheryl, Savio and their boys has been rewarding. Today, they cook together as a family. “Each boy gets to plan a meal one night a week, and we shop for it over the weekend. So, shopping and cooking together have brought us even closer together,” Sheryl says. “And we’ve learned that planning and preparation are key.”
Sheryl’s advice to other families; “It’s important to be realistic. Make small incremental changes. Choose to eat two salads a week, or incorporate exercise at least three days a week. Start with goals that are small and achievable.”
Exercise has become a family affair too. The boys now play club volleyball, and enjoy being outdoors. “When the weather is nice we like to ride our bikes together,” says Sheryl. “The Get up & Go program has helped change our lives. As a family, we go to the Y and hop on the treadmill and get some exercise. We head home and fix a healthy meal together. Life is healthy and good.”
Setting goals and taking one step at a time can help your family on the journey to wellness. Read more about pediatric weight management programs that include Get Up & Go, COACH, bariatrics and nutrition clinics.
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