Bringing the fight home

"As adults, we're used to seeing these BMI [body mass index] charts that categorize them as adults into overweight or obese," said Crowley. "With children, BMIs are not the same. They're not the same risk categories."

Many of the participants hear about the program through physician referrals.

Likewise, although ME Fit involves physical fitness and healthy eating, not all child participants are slated to lose weight during their seven weeks at the program. For their growing bodies, maintaining weight can be just as beneficial as losing it would be to an adult.

Instead of focusing on the weight loss many adults strive for when they begin a health regimen, ME Fit aims to develop the idea that a healthy lifestyle is not such a foreign concept. Ideas like eschewing restaurant trips in favor of at-home meals are encouraged, as is limiting TV viewing time.

That's why the unique element of ME Fit " having parents and children take the class at the same time " is so important to making sure these lessons are implemented in the home. By making a healthy lifestyle a family goal, conflict is inevitably curtailed.

On Mondays, parents meet with a dietician while the children visit an exercise instructor. It's not so much an organized workout as an active play session incorporating games and other fun activities.

"The idea is that we want to look at play as a way to get moving," Crowley said. "We say to the kids, 'your parents are going to sit here and do homework, and you're going to recess.' They just know they're having a good time."

Participants also take a group trip to the grocery store during the seven-week course, where they learn how they can make better choices when it comes to eating at home.

The difference between the course for teens and elementary-aged children is not dramatic, said Crowley. The exercise portion is more structured and a teen's more social lifestyle is considered.

"It is a different dynamic, there's definitely more emphasis on the eating out, more on trying new foods," Crowley said. "I think the approach is just practicable, healthy tips for cooking, for toning down your portions."

Registration for the teen session of ME Fit is open until Oct. 27. It is free to participants for the first time this year, but there is limited space. For more information or to register, visit http://www.cdymca.org/sn/locations/guilderland.aspx.""

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