Health isn’t just about weight, and it’s not just about one person.
That’s according to Dr. Tom Warshawski, chair of Childhood Obesity Foundation, which is partnering with local recreation centres across B.C. to offer a program called Generation Health.
The program is launching after a trial run last year when the foundation made changes to the program’s approach and delivery and will now introduce a family approach when it comes to health.
“It’s an evidence-based program for families to help them adopt healthy eating and active living lifestyles,” Dr. Warshawski said.
He said Generation Health is based on a similar program from the U.K. called MEND (mind, eating, nutrition, and “do it”).
The program is designed to have one session at a local recreation centre per week and another online session the family can complete whenever it’s convenient for them. The sessions last for ten weeks in total.
And this is where centres like the YMCA come in.
In Kelowna, the Family YMCA will be hosting Generation Health sessions for the second time, after a trial period last year.
Etienne Levesque is a fitness coach and personal trainer at the YMCA. He said the sessions are designed to give families, in-person support and to have immediate answers to some questions they may have.
“We start off with everyone playing together so parents have more game ideas to do with their kids. Then we take the parents out of the room, cool them down and then we go through more scientific literature about mindfulness, healthy eating, physical activity, screen time, and mental health among other things,” Levesque said.
He added the sessions are designed to be holistic and to be a safe space for families to come together and share thoughts and concerns.
“We don’t want to just focus on the physical activity and let someone walk away with questions about their nutrition or about their mental health, screen time or sleep. We want to give people a whole life plan to try and give them balance.”
Dr. Warshawski said it’s not about focusing just on weight.
“Weight is actually the by-product of your lifestyle, it’s not the issue in and of itself. So if someone has an unhealthy lifestyle but has what looks like a healthy weight, they’re still unhealthy and may be at a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and others,” he said.
“What we know is if we get the lifestyle right, chances are you’ll get the weight that’s right for you: a healthy weight.”
In order to get into the program, however, Dr. Warshawski said they look at children and families who are off-track when it comes to having healthy weights.
“The entry point is helping families in particular who are off the healthy weight trajectory.”
He added that one in three children and youth in the province are off that healthy trajectory, which is a problem that can persist into adulthood. This can increase risks such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“It’s about making those small consistent changes that make the bigger differences longer. We want this to be something that changes their lives for the better a couple of years down the line,” Levesque said.
The program is free for families and registration is now open. The program starts on Jan. 27 at the Kelowna Family YMCA.
Generation Health is also launching in Penticton starting on Feb. 4.
To register, visit the Generation Health website.