Monday, June 14, 2010

expert advice: thin parents, thin kids--from bariatric surgeon Dr. Carson Liu

The constant struggle to lose weight has always been a big concern in my family. So from the first time I laid eyes on a kids' weight chart, keeping my kids thin has been continuously on my mind. While weight loss diets abound, what I really want to know is how to keep them healthy before we reach that point. I asked UCLA-trained bariatric surgeon Dr. Carson Liu for some suggestions on how genetics, environment and parental behavior affects kids' weight issues. Here, he shares his insight...

Kidandcaboodle: Which factors are genetic and out of our control? Can you briefly explain the genetic angle and how this issue is passed down from parent to child?
Dr. Carson Liu: Obesity is 2/3 genetic and 1/3 caused by environmental factors such as the type and amount of food available to us, amount of stress, amount of activity, and habits we learn.

K&C: What are some environmental factors that affect obesity and how?
CL: The lack of daily exercise, the large amounts of carbohydrates in our diet, and the increase in stress in everyone's daily lives all affect obesity.

K&C: Can you offer three easy tips for parents to follow to discourage obesity in their children--perhaps ones that don't sound so overwhelming to try?
CL: Some easy tips that parents can instill is daily exercise and to eat healthy home cooked meals, not processed foods. We need to teach children how to prepare easy foods that don't entail heating a frozen pizza or Hot Pocket. We also need to teach kids how to shop for groceries on the periphery of grocery stores where fruits and vegetables reside, rather than processed foods. The food they eat should not have more than five ingredients. Kids should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day!

K&C: How can parents promote healthy eating without pushing too hard which can lead kids to rebel or seek out unhealthy foods?
CL: Parents need to lead by example. Eat less starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice or potato. Take a walk everyday with the kids.

K&C: How should parents handle the constant stream of birthday parties and candy given out at school or by other parents?
CL: Allow the child to have one piece and don't make it a daily event. Birthdays are special occasions and kids should be made aware that it is an extraordinary day.

For more great tips from Dr. Carson D. Liu, MD FACS, go to

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