Many children worldwide are battling with obesity and numerous weight-loss initiatives have been devised to address the issue. But, according to Michelle Creque-Aqui, facilitator of Marlene’s Weight-Loss Clinic, the key to successful weight-loss for adults and children is through proper nutrition. “We do not have a specific programme for children, but we do allow teenagers from the age of 13 into the programme. This of course happens with the consent of the parent. Our programme focuses on healthy eating and portion control,” she said. “We have a group programme that supports, provides motivation and educates the children. We choose the food once it fits within our guidelines. We believe in empowerment and so we prefer to tell the group this is what a healthy breakfast is supposed to look like,” she added. One way to fight weight loss, Creque-Aqui, said was to be mentally prepared to do so. “It is more than just diet sheets. The problem starts in your head. A decision followed by choices. “Weight-management begins this way. ‘Why am I drinking this water’?” The programme teaches the individual healthy eating habits and which foods are best for the given them.
But in a world of instant gratification, there are some people who would prefer not to have to go the good nutrition route to lose weight, as it can sometimes take some time to shed the fat. Their preferred choices are weight-loss clinics that endorse the use of appetite suppressants. According to a spokesperson for a weight-loss-clinics in east Trinidad, who prefers to remain anonymous, teenagers, with the consent of their parents, are offered appetite suppressant pills or injections to aid in shedding the additional pounds. The teenagers could lose “up to seven pounds in a week, without exercise and you can do this with two injections,” the spokesperson disclosed, adding that the clinic also offered the option of weight-loss exercise programmes. While Germaine La Borde, nutritionist at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, said she could not comment on the effectiveness of or how healthy taking quick fixes were to weight-loss, she was certain that nutrition played an important role in weight-loss. She said consumption of foods from the six food groups was necessary in a nutritious and healthy meal. “The biggest misconception people have of healthy food is that they only eat one type of food thinking that that alone is healthy. But a nutritious meal incorporates all six food groups. It is not healthy to leave out a group all together,” she said.
For parents seeking to provide a healthy meal for their children, she advised giving them juices that are “closer to 100 per cent is important. As well as fiber is a very important part of their diet. Things like lose granola and whole grains. “Avoiding the white stuff and eating more whole wheat is an essential part of eating healthy as well. “Fruits can go a long way in the sense of the fiber in the fruit, vitamins and the pulp. It keeps you feeling fuller, longer. Plus it is good for the digestive system,” she underscored. La Borde identified some problems parents may encounter in providing the foods their children need. “Even though parents know what their children need to eat. Time and money may prevent them from providing something healthy to eat everyday. They may start with healthy eating, but because it is expensive they are unable to continue with it,” she said. “The other problem children have with healthy eating is the taste. Money and taste are the two main inhibitors to healthy eating. It is cheaper to buy fried foods or if the child has $5 it is easier for the child to buy a big bag of pholourie,” she said.
Dr Yitades Gebre, family health and disease management advisor for the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), concurs that healthy foods can be expensive, but believes that healthy eating is essential. “Improving dietary habits is a societal issue, not only an individual behaviour. It needs the participation of many sectors, agriculture, health, trade, food producers manufacturers etc., and cultural approaches to educate consumers. “Policy makers at the highest level need to create supporting environment for citizens to embrace a healthy diet. Healthy eating habits are not only to be supported at the home but at the workplace and schools. “Population based policies which limits the intake of free sugar or reduce salt intake are needed. The elimination of trans-fatty acids are also critical to embrace healthy eating behaviour in this country. “Citizens have to be encouraged to increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. We need to protect young children from dubious marketing of food high in sugar, salt, trans fat and non-alcoholic drinks,” he emphasised.