Every body is different— even little bodies. As the mom of three boys who come from the same set of parents, I can attest to this.

They each have their own personalities, and they each have their own body type. My oldest is super thin, has never had much of an appetite and enjoys sporadic pick-up sports games. The middle child is thick  — he weighs more than his older brother, and he’s hefty — but also very athletic and the most physically active (voluntarily) of my three children. The youngest is a happy medium, and would much rather draw than kick around a soccer ball.

All three would sit and play video games all day every day if I let them — typical of most boys their age. Inactivity in our culture has led to an epidemic of kids who are overweight — and it’s up to us as parents to help guide our kids to make healthy choices that they will carry into adulthood.

Curbing unhealthy habits at a young age isn’t just about getting our kids to lose weight. Kids who are active are happier. A recent study of about 4,600 boys and girls in the seventh and eighth grades showed that the more physically active the kids were, the less likely they were to suffer from depression and anxiety. The American Diabetes Association says 208,000 Americans under the age of 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, with more than 9 percent of the total U.S. population living with the disease. Diabetes can lead to a lifetime of physical complications that can be avoided by living an active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy diet.

Not only that, but overweight kids are easy targets for bullies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The taunting, they say, can take a toll on your child’s emotional well-being and self-esteem, and there’s a really good chance that he or she won’t tell you what’s going on.

How can we encourage our kids to be more active? Start by limiting screen time. That includes the iPods, iPads, television and video games.

Get a pedometer. I know a family that purchased FitBits for each of their kids, and they don’t get to access electronics until they’ve walked 5,000 steps each day.

Encourage them to try a sport, and to keep trying sports until they find something they really enjoy.

Be active with them. Your kids are going to notice what you do a lot more than they’ll hear what you say. I’ll pop in a hip-hop fitness DVD, or invite them to go for a walk with me through the neighborhood. The local YMCAs allow kids 10 years and older to work out with parents in the fitness center.

Schedule healthy activities. When you’re thinking about what to do next weekend, try to work in something that will be fun and fit. Something as simple as a walk or bike ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail goes a long way.

Talk your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s weight. Sometimes, some affirmation from someone other than mom and dad can help encourage your child, and help him understand the seriousness of obesity-related diseases.

The goal in addressing potential weight issues with our kids is to make sure they’re happy and healthy. They won’t be happy if they’re being teased at school about their weight, and they may feel powerless to do anything about it. Stay positive and encourage them as they make healthy choices — soon enough, they’ll be making those healthy choices on their own.

Talk to Jenna

Jenna Kochenauer is a news anchor on WORD 106.3 FM radio. Follow her @JennaOnTheAir. Read her blog at

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