Friday, October 26, 2007

26% of all American children are overweight

I'm very happy to be writing the Foreword to the Feed Your Kids Well: How to Help Your Child Lose Weight and Get Healthy book. For years, I've been treating adults with nutritional medicine with overwhelming success. But why wait until you're an adult to feed yourself well? It makes all the sense in the world to start a healthier way of being in childhood.

Our children are having more problems than ever before. You might find it interesting to revisit your old sixth-grade classroom. Remember how few of your classmates were overweight? Well, look at their successors now. I'll bet you'll note a mini-epidemic of overweight children.

That's just the visible side of the problem. Delve further and you may find that two in every ten schoolchildren have been prescribed the stimulant drug Ritalin because their hyperactivity or inconstant attention spans make the teachers' problems too difficult.

Type II diabetes, something that heretofore required a minimum of three decades to develop, is beginning to be seen in high school students.

The sad news is that all of these problems are obvious consequences of a culture wide series of nutritional mistakes. Yet the leaders of medicine are not only perplexed by the epidemic nature of these and similar problems, they continue to perpetuate the same mistakes that have caused these problems.

Many are the hours that my practice associate, Dr. Fred Pescatore, the Medical Director of the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, has talked with me about the vast gulf between the successful results our school- age patients were getting and the lack of success their previous medical management had provided. We agreed that the failure to recognize the harmful consequences of repeated courses of antibiotics or of constantly recycling environmental chemicals created many of their problems, but we were amazed by mainstream medicine's utter failure to recognize the harmful effects on our children's health of junk food containing the refined carbohydrates-sugars and starches. And we wondered when they would realize that their insistence on restricting fats has only led to an increasing intake of junk carbohydrates. That advice has only been part of the problem, not its solution. FOREWORD

Feed Your Kids Well provides that solution. It is based not only on an under- standing of what children must learn to eat and to avoid in order to maintain ideal health, but also on targeting of vitanutrient intake to correct the medical crises our children face.

The information in Feed Your Kids Well is accessible and has been time-tested by the Atkins Center medical staff. You'll find that its suggestions make sense. The most pleasant surprise of all is that the food and nutrition plans Dr. Pescatore suggests will be accepted by most children because the often-immediate improvements they will feel can prove to be self-motivating.

Feed Your Kids Well contains a message that all parents need to learn-junk food and pharmaceuticals both have significant downside risks. If we get our children to avoid both of them, we can allow them to thrive in ideal health.

Dr. Pescatore teaches you, step by step, just how easy and rewarding that can be. Introduction by Fred Pescatore, M.D.

A refrain I hear over and over from the children who come to see me is, "I wanna be healthy." They wanna be healthy but don't know how. And how could they? They arc children, and what they know is what they learn from their parents, teachers, and other children. But they can be healthy. This book is the tool that concerned parents can use to help their overweight and nonoverweight children get healthy.

I am living proof that health is an attainable goal. I was an overweight child. If you've never struggled with a weight problem, it's a condition to which you will never quite be able to relate. Being fat distorts your body perception, gives you a poor self-image, and often leaves you open to ridicule.

That's only what being overweight can do to your child when he or she is young. There are lifelong psychological and physical implications. No matter how slender I might be today, inside there will always be that overweight little boy, longing to be thin and athletic, to fit in. Today, I am exactly the right weight for my size, but I still carry the baggage that will. I'm sure, remain with me for the rest of my life.

I wish my parents had Feed Your Kids Well when they were raising me. Over the years, I have spent a good deal of time undoing the many harmful (albeit well-meaning) eating habits they instilled in me. It's important to understand that habits arc all they are. Proper eating, like proper manners and grooming, must be taught. Too often, parents don't realize this.

I host a weekly radio show. When I interview an author, one of the first questions I ask is how he or she came to write; the answer tells me a good deal about the person, I'd like to share with you some of my background, and how it affected who I am today and why I'm writing this book.

My quest for knowledge has taken me all over the globe to look for the most beneficial ways of treating my patients. I tell my patients that I will do almost anything that will make them well. That is my job, and I take it seriously.

Even as a child I knew I wanted to be a physician. There was never any other consideration for me. I wanted to help other people-and myself. During my medical training in New York City, I was exposed to the latest scientific break- throughs. I was trained in a completely conventional (allopathic) medical way, and I would have been satisfied with that approach-if only the majority of the patients I saw were getting better. That wasn't the case and it concerned me. I began to think there must be something else that could be done; there had to be more to healing than what we were doing in the hospital. I wasn't naïve enough to think everyone should live forever, but I was idealistic enough to believe we could be doing more for our patients.

Fortunately, right after residency training, I stumbled upon complementary medicine, a completely new concept for me. Complementary medicine involves looking for the source of a person's medical complaint, not just attacking symptoms. Complementary medicine challenges the physician to find the answer and the cure. It involves using alternative medical techniques along with those learned in traditional medical schools.

I have been fortunate to train with one of the founding fathers of complementary medicine. Dr. Robert Atkins. Many of you know him as "the diet doctor," but he's much more than that. He has been treating patients in a complementary fashion for more than thirty years. I was able to draw on his experience and to develop my own ideas on nutrition and vitamin supplementation, allowing me to offer patients more than just one drug after another.

Feed Your Kids Well comes at a time when the medical establishment is finally beginning to realize that alternative treatments exist and are flourishing. In the past year, over one in three Americans visited an alternative medical practitioner, and yet there have not been many doctors discussing the benefits of alternative medical techniques for our children. If you are comfortable exploring alternative techniques for yourself-and you've found success with them- the next logical step would be for your children to share in that success.

Through my years working with Dr. Atkins, I developed my own ideas about health and nutrition, and I have put these ideas to the test with my patients. Some of Dr. Atkins's ideas and mine are similar, while some of them are quite different. His very successful weight-loss diet involves achieving a metabolic state called ketosis, which occurs when the body is actively metabolizing stored fat. Because children are more metabolically active than adults, my nutrition plan, the Next Generation Diet, does not call for your child to achieve this state. I'd like to believe I've taken Dr. Atkins's work to the next level-the next generation.

Feed Your Kids Well includes a nutritional lifestyle program that incorporates the important building blocks-protein, fats, and carbohydrates-combining them in a complete, well-balanced meal plan that is easy to maintain over a life- time. Part One of the book explains the science behind your child's body and metabolism. The diet outlined in Part Two will enable your overweight child to lose weight and to become more healthy. Part Three explores the treatment of some of the most common childhood illnesses in ways your child's pediatrician may not have told you about. It also explores many other diet-related illnesses to which your child may be unknowingly susceptible because of his or her diet

These principles apply to all children-overweight or not. Part Four covers the role of exercise. My program is linked to an exercise plan to ensure success. Exercise has become almost anathema to many of our children; each year, less and less time is spent in the pursuit of physical activity. I will discuss the importance of exercise and many ways you can incorporate this into your and your family's daily routine. In Part Five, I offer sugar-free menu and recipe sections that will enable you to make great meals that have withstood life's toughest critics-children and teenagers. The beauty of The Next Generation Diet is its simplicity. You need not concern yourself with calorie counts or monitor the fat intake. The diet does this for you automatically. Calories don't count, and your child will never go hungry. The only thing you have to monitor is the number of grams of carbohydrates that are present in the foods you feed your child. I'll teach you how to do just that This information is contained on the nutrition label located on the packaging of most foods. To make it easier, I often recommend that my patients buy an inexpensive companion carbohydrate counter they can use to help them plan each meal.

Part of treating a patient in an integrative way involves the use of oral nutritional supplementation-taking vitamins, minerals, and sometimes herbal preparations. I contend that it is possible to treat many common childhood illnesses without the use of harmful drugs. I'll share some of my time-tested favorite supplements with you throughout this book. At the very least, these nutritional supplements may be used in combination with drugs your pediatrician has recommended in order to achieve the optimal health picture for your child. It's important for you to understand that I do not mean for this book to be a replacement for your child's pediatrician, who is very important to the well-being of your child. I simply offer additional advice that has worked in the hundreds of children I've treated.

I believe we are at a health crisis point. Never before have there been so many overweight adults and so many overweight children. What is being over- weight? It's partly based on a scientific ratio that I'll explain to you, and it's partly based on social norms. I'll provide you ways to determine if your own kid is overweight.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Exam Survey, approximately 26 percent, or one in four, of all American children and adolescents are overweight. That is double the rate of thirty years ago. Between 1963 and today, this rate has increased by 54 percent among children aged six to eleven and thirty-nine percent among adolescents aged twelve to eighteen. In the case of a child, obesity, as opposed to simply being overweight, is defined as being greater than 130 percent of the ideal body weight for the child's height. Using these figures, 14 percent of all children and 12 percent of adolescents are obese. When the figures for overweight and obese children are combined, we find that nearly one in three children has a weight problem, while half of all adults arc overweight. You can see that this problem is of epidemic proportions-an epidemic that has occurred despite the years of what I call the "low- fat myth." The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet was proposed as the ultimate healthy diet because in the athletes who ate this way, cholesterol levels and other health indicators were favorable. However, because most Americans are sedentary and not at all athletic, I feel that advocating this diet has been a great disservice to the American people.

All current indicators show that the health of the American population- adults and children-has gotten worse, not better, since the low-fat diet has become the standard. Even if the low-fat diet is okay for some people, it clearly is not the diet for the majority of the population. Instead of eating meat, people now pile their plates with pasta and think they are eating wisely. In this book I will show you how this is equivalent to piling your plate with sugar. It is my contention that the interaction of sugar and carbohydrates with proteins and fats-not just fat alone or genetics-has led to this obesity epidemic in our children.

As I researched this book, I was amazed to find that there was no similar book that portrays sugar as the "food criminal" for children. This is odd because there have been many diets for adults that view sugar this way. By far the most famous and successful is the phenomenal bestseller Dr. Atkins'New Diet Revolution.

Being overweight is far more than just a cosmetic problem, although it's sometimes treated that way. It can be the cause of a host of health-related problems. Only now, after years of research, are we beginning to realize that the preventable harm we cause our bodies when we are young takes its toll on us as adults. Furthermore, because obesity is affecting a younger and younger segment of the population, diseases-diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, orthopedic abnormalities, and others-once confined to adults are now becoming increasingly prevalent in our youth. If we don't do something to stop the obesity epidemic, the next generation could suffer these horrible and potentially fatal diseases as regularly as we suffered from chicken pox when we were young.

My original purpose for this book was to provide a weight-loss book for children. However, as I thought about it over the period of several months, it became clearer to me that through a healthy diet many childhood illnesses, including allergies, asthma, and even attention deficit disorder, could be tempered and brought under control without the use of potentially harmful medications, which in fact, might even be a cause of these illnesses.

Don't kid yourself, it's not just baby fat, and it's not just big bones. I can't tell you how many times I've heard those excuses, offered by overprotective parents and grandparents to spare themselves pain. I say this because parents must often make difficult adjustments in their own lives and their own eating habits in order to make successful changes for their children.

No matter how precocious your child may be, it is important to remember that he or she is not merely a pint-sized version of an adult. Some parents for- get this and believe that they can simply place their overweight child on a diet designed for an adult Be forewarned: an adult dietary plan cannot be used for any of your children, overweight or not. Chances are that not only won't the adult diet work, but it could conceivably do damage to healthy growth patterns and the normal maturation of your child.

An adult diet is no more suitable for a child than is a television program or movie that has been designed specifically for mature audiences. Children require different nutritional balances at different stages of their lives. For this reason it is not practical or healthy to put your overweight child-or any child-on any of the numerous adult diets.

Stop to think about it for a moment It would be inconceivable for a parent to feed an infant anything but food especially formulated for them. Yet, once the child is able to speak and eat on his or her own, this same parent wouldn't think twice about giving their toddler or preschooler exactly what they themselves would eat or exactly what the child wants to eat Suddenly, nutrition takes a back scat to everything else.

This book will help you avoid those mistakes by giving you hints on how to handle even the most stress-inducing children in their pursuit of proper eating habits. I discuss children who have terrible eating habits, like those who choose to eat only junk food or those who won't sit at the table with the family.

The earlier in life you start any program, the greater is the chance of a life- time of success, and it is possible to start a diet protocol for any child starting at the age of two. I encourage dietary modifications for the children of my patients this young, but I won't be offering that advice in this book. This is a highly individualized segment of the pediatric population, and I would feel uncomfortable offering advice where I could not personally oversee the results. This book is therefore designed for kids from ages six to eighteen.

Feed Your Kids Well is divided into sections devoted to specific age groups. Please keep in mind that these age groups are only suggestions. For example, a very large five-year-old can certainly be started on the diet A small thirteen- year-old may fit better in the nine to twelve category than in the teenage one. No one knows your child better than you, and common sense in this regard should prevail when deciding in which age group to place your child.

The inspiration for this work comes from my patients, a constant source of enjoyment and encouragement to me. I've successfully treated and helped hundreds of children and thousands of adult patients lose weight and attain health. It is extremely rewarding to me to offer a program that enriches the lives of so many people. It -was at my patients' prompting that I ultimately agreed to share this nutritional plan with the rest of the world. It is my strongest desire that the next generation of children do not have to grow up the way I did.

Many of the success stories you will read are about the children of my adult patients. These parents were so unhappy with the treatment their children were getting from their regular pediatricians (in many cases, it was simply a matter of drug after drug) that they brought them to me, knowing from their own experience that their children would get well and flourish. Each story you will read about in this book is true. The name of each patient has been changed to protect his or her privacy.

My ultimate aim is to offer a comprehensive nutritional lifestyle plan that can and will work not only for your child, but for the entire family. You can't isolate one child from siblings, adults in the household, or the outside world. Parents cannot do this important work alone; your children are being minded by many people other than you. Anyone who takes an active caregiver role for your child also needs to read this book. This especially means anyone doing the grocery shopping and meal preparation. This will probably include siblings, grandparents, or household help.

The plan I'm outlining will work not only in the initial phases when every- one is enthusiastic about it, but also in the more difficult maintenance phases when the program needs to be reinforced in order to guarantee a lifetime of healthy eating. Once the honeymoon phase of the diet is over and the real work begins, it is a supportive family that will ensure the longest-lasting effects.

I hope Feed Your Kids Well will help you instill in your children a sense of responsibility for one's own actions, including making the correct decisions about what to eat They need to learn that a healthy diet-and-exercise program will enhance every aspect of their lives.

So do something about your children's weight if they are overweight, and if they are not, do something about their diet in order to prevent them from becoming victims of a diet-related illness. One of my goals is to make you think twice about what you fur entire family, including yourself. If you feed your kids well, you can help ensure a lifetime of good health for your children-the best legacy of all. Chapter 1 - A Personal Story

I GREW UP IN WHAT WE CONSIDERED TO BE A TYPICAL ITALIAN-AMERICAN family. Everyone was obese-my mother, my father, and my two sisters. It wasn't even a topic for conversation because, to us, it was the norm. Italians ate. We ate. And we ate a lot. So what?

The mainstay at each meal was pasta. Pasta and bread, followed by a course of meat. No matter what the main course was, we would start with pasta. And there was no such thing as eating only everything on your plate. In our household, if you didn't ask for seconds, then there had to something wrong with you. If you didn't eat enough, you were probably coming down with something that might require a doctor's attention.

Naturally, because this was my only dining experience, I thought this was the way everybody ate. In fact, when I visited other people's homes and saw that they didn't eat that way, I thought they were odd, that they were the ones who were out of step with the rest of the world. Where was the pasta course? Something was terribly wrong. Didn't they know what a real meal was? I would often come home hungry and my mother would feed me again, only this time what she considered a proper dinner. I was even encouraged not to go out to eat because the food wouldn't be very good and I'd come home hungry.

The Weight Issue

Was weight an issue in our family? Absolutely not. After all, coming from a tight-knit family, we thought everybody lived and ate like we did. There was no standard to compare ourselves to, other than us. Should weight have been an issue for our family? You better believe it! I was overweight, as were my two older sisters. Both my parents were also overweight. The sad thing was, because y parents did not see this as a problem, neither did any of the children. Sure, my sisters attempted to lose weight every so often, but because there was no support from my parents, who were always pushing food in front of us, they were doomed to failure, (And, as a result, they still are overweight. Neither of them has ever been able to maintain weight loss from the numerous diets they've tried over the years.) Perhaps I was more fortunate in my attempt to lose weight because I had the advantage of being the youngest child. I was able to see the way my sisters were constantly sabotaged, and I knew that when I did make the attempt, I had to do it without the prior knowledge and consent of my parents and without listening to their advice and recommendations.

This is not to say that I don't love my parents or value their advice about other issues. It's just that they didn't have the knowledge to handle this problem. They were great parents in every other way and provided me with the means to achieve as much as I have. I just wish they had had this book to hope guide them when I was growing up.

By the time I was fifteen years old, I was five feet ten inches tall an weighed a whopping 240 pounds! My life was a mess. I suffered from asthma and various allergies. I couldn't play sports because I didn't have the stamina. The truth was, I could hardly move. Socially I was an outcast. I was teased unmercifully by my peers which caused me to be deeply ashamed of my obesity and, by extension, myself.

As you can imagine, I was desperately unhappy. I wanted to do what my friends were doing. I wanted to play singles on the tennis team, but I just didn't have the endurance. Finally, I was so miserable that I realized I had to do something. It was Lent, the forty-day period of time when Christians will forgo eating food they like or participating in activities they enjoy in order to commemorate Jesus spending forty days in the desert without food and water. So I made a secret deal with myself that for forty days and forty nights I would give up all solid food.

Without any supervision or guidance whatsoever, I embarked upon a crash starvation diet. I drank diet soda and nothing else. By the end of forty days and forty nights, I had lost sixty pounds. But it was not without paying a steep price. Before beginning the diet, I was a straight A student. By the time it ended, I could hardly pay attention in class and my grades plummeted. My stomach shrank, which was a perfect setup for a lifetime of yo-yo dieting. My body started to break down, and I began to lose muscle tissue. I was sixty pounds lighter, but my body and mind were suffering potentially dire consequences. At this point, as you might well imagine, my mother was beside herself. There were constant fights and attempts at bribery to get me to resume eating "regularly." My parents thought there was something wrong with me and even went so far as to take me to see several physicians and priests. But to no avail. At this pint, I was finally going to take control of my life and see my way to a skinnier me.

Revelation: losing weight means getting healthier

In spite of my poor dietary habits, I had managed to lose an enormous amount of weight and by the time I was finished with my crash diet, I found there was an added bonus: my allergies and asthma had amazingly disappeared. Once I began on my own version of a maintenance diet, which consisted primarily of meats and salads, my stamina returned and my mind cleared. Without realizing it, by losing weight and changing the foods I ate, I had become a healthier person. For the first time in my life, I began to equate what I ate with how I felt. It was only after this experience that it occurred to me that proper eating should be as ingrained in our psyches as is washing our hands before eating and brushing our teeth after meals. I only wish I'd had that knowledge long before I became an obese teenager. It was such a simple lesson to learn: What you place into your body becomes a part of you and can affect how you feel!

If I had grown up with this knowledge as simply another part of the value system my parents had instilled in me, I would never have become obese, and my whole life would not be centered around the struggle with weight as it is today.

I had lost the weight, but as anyone who has a weight problem knows, that's only half the battle. I had to keep the weight off. And, to this day, the maintenance of this weight loss remains a problem.

Since the time of my initial weight loss, I have been on numerous fad diets, many of which I've made up myself. Some of the more humorous ones include the French fry/chocolate pudding diet I was fond of in medical school. Another diet I was partial to in medical school was the egg white/spinach diet I should mention that somehow I managed to lose weight on both these diets, but do either of these sound particularly healthful to you? Of course not. The truth is, because of a young person's metabolism, they will be able to lose weight on most any diet, but the results won't necessarily be healthful.

Even now, twenty years after I lost all that weight, I still think about food pretty much constantly throughout the day. Perhaps this can be somewhat explained by the fact that I practice nutritional medicine, but I think there's more to it than that. At this point, it is relatively easy for me to know what it is I can and cannot cat, but at times I have to be stricter with myself than at other times.

Your children can avoid these troubles. You need only arm them with the necessary nutritional information and then consider it important enough to work with your children to stick to healthful eating. It is my goal that this book help you do just this: Give your child the legacy of good eating habits-and a trim, healthy body.

Feed Your Kids Well: How to Help Your Child Lose Weight and Get Healthy
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