01/22/18 — Goldsboro Family Y tackles childhood obesity

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Goldsboro Family Y tackles childhood obesity

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 22, 2018 5:50 AM

The Goldsboro YMCA is addressing the epidemic of childhood obesity, offering a 12-week class open to youth ages 6 to 16.

The spring session will start Jan. 30, said Alice Huneycutt, health and wellness programs coordinator with the Family Y.

CHANGE for Children -- which stands for Commitment to Healthy Attitudes in Nutrition, Growth and Education -- has been around for 15 years. More than a diet or exercise program, though, it is an educational approach to lifestyle changes that will benefit young people for the rest of their lives.

"CHANGE is a wonderful program for children who need help overcoming weight issues," Huneycutt said. "We focus on physical activity, healthy eating and self-esteem to promote a positive lifestyle change.

"The kids have a great time and are empowered to affect their own lives."

The program is open to YMCA members and non-members. It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5-6:30 p.m..

Cost is $75, but financial assistance is available to qualifying families, Huneycutt said.

It features a nutrition component, promoting wholesome eating habits, and fun ways to exercise and become more active.

"During a typical class, participants might go swimming, play dodgeball or basketball or go off-campus for a night of roller skating," she said. "It also incorporates family nights, with parents and siblings involved."

Dr. Chris Griffin, with Goldsboro Pediatrics, serves as an adviser to the program. He has worked with the Y on the effort for more than 10 years, he said.

It's a wonderful program, he says, but the success goes beyond the fact that it is helping youth shed a few pounds.

"A lot of people don't realize that a lot of these kids coming through the program, they really have low self-esteem because they don't participate in sports a lot or, if they do, they may get teased or they're not as athletic as some of the other kids.

"That can be difficult on them. When they get into the CHANGE program and they're working with the teacher at the Y and then participating with other kids, their self-esteem really goes up. They realize that they can compete, that they can do these sports and that's just really great to see how their personality and their self-confidence changes."

Griffin said that is one thing he has particularly appreciated about the series, praising the efforts of the Y for keeping it going.

"We see a few kids who go from not participating, not exercising, to now going out for sports teams and participating. That's something you don't think about but it's such a good thing to see that self-esteem improve and that confidence," he said.

It also helps to have family support, particularly from the parents, the pediatrician said.

That is something he works with in his practice, assessing the interest level of adults in the child's life.

"The first approach I take is I try to gauge the interest of the parent and the children. You really have to involve the parents in this because their support is needed," he said. "You need the message to be reinforced at home.

"If the family is interested, then we start talking about ways that we can make improvements, whether that is through joining the CHANGE program, seeing a nutrition, changes that that we can make at home. You find the outcomes are much better when you have that interest from both the family and the patient."

Obesity is still a problem, especially among the younger segment of the population, Griffin said. And even though strides are being made, there is more to be done.

He said he would like to see the issue addressed at an earlier age, especially in making the connection between proper nutrition and exercise.

"We know that if you have obesity and you're overweight at a young age, that increases your risk for being an obese adult," he said.

His hope is that the community will become aware of the Y's CHANGE program and take advantage of what it can do to improve the quality of their lives.

To find out more, contact Huneycutt at 919-778-8557 or email alice.huneycutt@goldsboroymca.org.