Springfield-based program helps families combat childhood obesit - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Springfield-based program helps families combat childhood obesity

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(Image Courtesy: MGN Online) (Image Courtesy: MGN Online)

Nearly one in three kids are overweight in America and in Springfield, the percentage is even more. 

In fact, Springfield has the highest ratio with nearly half of children in the city being overweight. 

"Sometimes she'll come in crying, saying so and so said 'I'm chubby or fat' and it hurts her feelings and me as a parent," said Yolanda Maldonado.

As a mom of two, Maldonado never saw her 7-year-old's weight as an issue

"For me, it was the norm.  I didn't pay a lot of attention," Maldonado added.

According to Chrystal Wittcopp, director of Baystate's pediatric weight program, this is typical for parents.

"If you have a kid that looks a little bit like they're not thin, then that kid might be overweight.  It's just a visual and plus, since so many kids are overweight and obese, our perception gets a little skewed of what is overweight and healthy weight for kids," Wittcopp explained.

Almost half of children in Springfield are considered overweight or obese with even more on the cusp.  How this affects their self-confidence is even more alarming.

"It's hard for kids.  Kids who are substantially overweight, we know are at risk for bullying in school.  We know that they suffer from depression, low self-esteem, all of that impacts education for kids," Wittcopp said.

As we know, being overweight can also lead to serious risks such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and fatty liver. 

However, what about children who are on the cusp of being overweight?

"The biggest risk is becoming overweight or obese, so kids can be at the 75th percentile and be healthy and that's okay, but it's really more about what are they doing?  Are they eating the correct fruits and vegetables  Do they have the right balance on their plate? or are they being physically active?" Wittcopp noted.

One way that Baystate is combating the fight against fat is through the MIGHTY program, which stands for Moving, Improving, Gaining Health Together at the Y.

"We have an exercise trainer and a dietician and a social worker and a psychologist.  They meet with families over a long time period, so at least six months to help them learn and set goals around their nutrition and physical activity," Wittcopp said.

Kara Miller, fitness coordinator for the program, said that she often sees the link between weight and confidence.

"Sometimes, we have kids come in with really low self esteem, their head is down or their hat is on, and by the end of the program, they have a face.  You can see them, they're smiling, they're engaged in the class," Miller said.

However, what about fighting fat without shaking a child's self-confidence?

"It's important to be a friend and a support system and to actually teach them what they need to do physically instead of leaving it up to them to decide or figure out on their own," Miler added.

Most importantly, it's never too early, nor too late, to make a healthy change.

For more information on the MIGHTY program, CLICK HERE.

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