First grader Gavin Valentine loves to run, bike and play outside. He’s curious about everything around him. His favorite foods? Broccoli and mac and cheese top the list.
But after his parents separated in 2017, Gavin began to experience a significant weight gain, from 60 to 90 pounds over two years. And with cerebral palsy (CP) affecting his left side, regular physical activities are a bit more challenging.
In fall 2018, at one of his regular check-ups with his pediatrician, CentraCare’s Pediatric Weight Management program became a topic of discussion between Dr. David Kruse and Gavin’s mom, Crescence, who made the decision to enroll him in the program.
“At the first appointment, we met with four different providers including a pediatrician, dietitian, exercise specialist and psychologist,” Crescence explains. “They did a thorough assessment and asked a lot of questions about Gavin’s lifestyle including food preferences, school, activities and emotions.”
Through a series of weekly appointments, Crescence and Gavin were provided with a variety of tools designed to educate them on healthy eating, activity level and dealing with stress.
Tips for healthy lifestyles for children
Crescence shares some great tips they’ve learned from the program:
- Feeding techniques for positive mealtimes. Using play food, they reviewed the importance of plating food and portion control. “The goal is to have equal portions of protein, fruits and vegetables on his plate. I make the decision about where, when and what we are going to eat. Gavin decides how much he is going to eat — or if he wants to eat at all. We both learned a lot about not just eating what tastes good but what you should eat. And we’ve adopted a mentality of being mindful. We think about how hungry we should be when we eat and how full we should be when we are done.”
- Incorporating fun activities and movement into their family’s routine. “With his older brother, he plays outside more and is looking forward to swimming and biking in the summer. He’s got a great attitude and isn’t afraid to participate fully in school activities, too.”
- Developing new healthy habits the whole family can enjoy. “We have reward system that if he plays for one hour, he can have 20 minutes of video game time. He also can earn time through doing his homework and cleaning his room.”
- Managing stress. Asking questions like “When you are sad, are there certain foods you like to eat?” helped the staff understand and offer guidance on emotional triggers. “For one of the activities, Gavin made a stress bottle. He also learned the elephant stomp and the stress press (pushing palms together) which are ways to controls emotions.”
Now the team appointments are two to three weeks apart and the program’s medical director, Andrew Maloney, MD, reviews his progress every two to three months. The good news is that Gavin has grown four inches since September 2018 and dropped one pound, resulting in a body mass index change from 28.99 to 24.24.
“When managing weight with children, the goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s to grow into their weight. Basically, they maintain their weight until their height catches up,” Dr. Maloney says. Gavin and his mom are wonderful examples of how beneficial this program can be.”
Crescence is grateful and happy that CentraCare started this program. “I wish it had been around when I was a kid and truly hope these tools will stick with him forever.”