Underage and Overweight: Our Childhood Obesity Crisis
– What Every Family Needs to Know

by Frances M. Berg

“Offers much valuable advice.”—The New York Times

“Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“This plan is a breath of fresh air.” Public Health Association Newsletter, ND

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Berg has written a reassuring, practical book that will help both parents and children lead healthier lives. She analyzes the current data and suggests that, since people come in a variety of shapes and sizes, parents should accept this and embark, along with their children, on a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and eating a variety of foods in moderation. … Berg’s positive, encouraging tone is a refreshing response to more alarmist titles and popular fad diet books that urge people to lose weight immediately via drastic diet changes.

—Library Journal

OFFERS MUCH VALUABLE ADVICE on how parents and communities can address the problem. …What really comes across is that understanding obesity is not easy. Along with the usual suspects, Ms. Berg points to other factors: Bigger babies, excess weight gain in pregnancy, babies semi-starved in the womb by dieting moms, multiple pregnancies for teenage moms, stress, disruption of normal eating, dieting, smoking cessation, medications and even infection.

— The New York Times

I FOUND UNDERAGE AND OVERWEIGHT TO BE AN EXCELLENT, relevant resource in the very critical issue of weight and children in our society. Of special note is the “ what works; what doesn’t” section. Many of our students are still adolescents and have for most of their lives suffered from weight issues whether they are “overweight” or not. Their well-meaning parents have often been part of the problem. Having a resource that gives such a broad overview of the issues is invaluable.

—Anne Caprio Shovic, PhD, RD, Dietetics
Program Director, University of Hawaii

WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL that as we prepare to declare war on obesity, we don’t knock down the gains made to combat eating disorders. The focus on poundage sends chills up my spine. Are we quite certain that a focus on weight, rather than on health, is the one we wish to convey to our children?
“We need to coordinate obesity efforts with eating disorders prevention,” says Frances Berg, author of Underage and Overweight. “They are interrelated issues, and it’s certainly possible to cause new problems (eating disorders) while trying to fix others (weight gain).” …Our children are particularly vulnerable.

—-USA Today

UNDERAGE AND OVERWEIGHT IS AN INFORMATIVE, easy-to-read text that provides useful tips for developing healthy habits in children and adolescents while challenging parents, teachers and health professionals to be role models. Berg describes America’s current childhood obesity crisis, identifying potential root causes as well as solutions to the problem while reiterating the “health at any size” message of her previous books. She challenges readers to shift from the traditional, weight-centered model of health to a holistic paradigm that promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and positive self-regard. Throughout the book, vignettes help the reader to understand common experiences, feelings, and challenges of overweight youth. … The book presents a new perspective on how to solve the obesity crisis along with the tools needed to develop wellness in children of all sizes.

—Journal of the American Dietetic Association

BERG DOCUMENTS THE CAUSES OF and concerns about childhood obesity in contemporary U.S. society. A dominant and appropriate theme for parents seeking advice is to “normalize” eating behaviors in their children and to encourage more fun exercise opportunities. Berg also provides suggestions for school systems, and points to the possibility of parental behavior generating dangerous eating disorders in children.

—Choice, American Library Association

[THIS BOOK] PROVIDES A COMMON SENSE APPROACH to the weight management problem facing the United States and other developed countries. It is a valuable resource for parents of children and adolescents who face challenges with weight management. If parents practice the guidelines outlined for their children, their health may even improve too! The chapter on active living provides the nuts and bolts of starting lifestyle changes. The focus initially should be on consistency, not necessarily duration or intensity. Berg encourages a change to “active living,” not just exercising. By making the change to active living, children are empowered to make other changes more easily.
Underage & Overweight
examines the scope of the current obesity problem, its root causes, the medical consequences, and the challenges facing overweight children and their parents. It helps put this whole critical issue of weight gain into perspective. Health should be the focus, yet sometimes that is forgotten in the fight to reduce body weight. …The book is well referenced and indexed. Numerous case studies and other examples are given to assist adults in working with overweight children and adults.

—Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

WITH HER USUAL SCHOLARLY BUT READABLE STYLE, Berg’s newest book makes the case against putting children on diets. She says, “An increasing body of evidence shows that the efforts of physicians and parents often backfire when they try to control children’s eating. Instead of helping them slim down, it impedes their ability to self-regulate and puts these children at higher risk for overweight.” She also stands up for the largest children. “If a weight loss intervention doesn’t work for healthy, moderately-overweight kids and can harm them,” she writes. “Why would any responsible physician prescribe it for the severely obese child?”

—Association for Size Diversity and Health Newsletter

ADDRESSES THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES of childhood obesity, and presents a 7-step plan for raising healthy-weight children. Underage & Overweight encourages families to promote a more active lifestyle and provide healthier food choices, rather than prescribing diets and exercise regimens, in order to help children and teens develop healthy habits for life.

— WIN Newsletter, National Institutes of Health

THIS BOOK PROVIDES A HISTORICAL JOURNEY of the evolution of childhood obesity, lets you reminisce over the theories and strategies over the years that have come and gone, then takes you through a thought-provoking analysis of trends and attitudes that prevail today. Berg is one of the nation’s pioneers in the Health at Any Size approach. This approach embraces the notion that beauty, health, and strength come in all sizes and that health is not defined by body weight, but by physical, mental, and social well being. You will learn why dieting is not the answer, and in fact, why it is truly the worst strategy for dealing with excess weight in children.

— Dietetic Update

BERG PACKS MORE INFORMATION, practical advice, behavioral hints, and child raising techniques for promoting healthy children of all sizes in this book than I have ever seen before in one place. She does a superb job of translating the medicine and science around obesity into lay terms, and packaging it into a usable form that will really help our children. If you are concerned about childhood obesity, then read this book first!”

—Wayne C. Miller, PhD, Professor, Exercise Science and Nutrition
George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC

THIS PLAN IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR, respectful to children, practical for families, and beneficial to communities as a whole. A Call to Action…The chapter “Helping the Overweight Child” is priceless, as it guides parents to honor their already-overweight child with loving methods of interaction, communication, and active play. It includes how to avoid the common pitfalls that tend to make matters worse. I encourage not only parents to read this book, but health professionals as well. There is an urgent need for health-care providers to unite to deliver the same positive and practical messages in order to help our nation’s families. If we all read this book, we could begin to make headway on this vital issue.

—Public Health Association (ND) Newsletter

IT’S THE SECOND HALF OFUnderage & Overweight THAT REALLY SHINES. The focus is on what should really count – a child’s overall health and well-being. The wellness approach asks: How can we help the child shift to healthier habits that last a lifetime? How can we prevent weight and eating problems? Berg shares many examples of successful programs already in place and then walks parents through various obstacles to changing the way they think about food and physical activity. Special attention and strategies are given for helping the overweight child build self-esteem and become more active, versus focusing on losing weight or restricting food. Berg reveals why diets don’t work and how repeatedly failing to lose weight and keep it off slides into a downward spiral of negative self-esteem and worsened self-image. A no-win situation for large children and teens living in a culture where obesity appears to be the last socially acceptable form of prejudice.

—Columbia River Eating Disorder Network News

BERG ADVISES PARENTS, TEACHERS, and other caregivers concerned about children’s weight problems to forget about restrictive diets or rigid routines. Instead, they should help their children develop health, confident, diet-free lifestyles in which sound habits for eating and activity come naturally.

—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FINALLY! SOME SANITY IN THE MIDST of the “war on childhood obesity.” Berg argues that the time for admonishing people to “try harder” to lose weight is over; instead, offer an approach that works. Berg has done just that with Underage and Overweight. Berg’s groundbreaking work promises to help move children to healthy, confident, diet-free lifestyles in which sound habits for eating and activity come naturally and the “childhood obesity crisis” is a thing of the past.

Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Nutrition Therapist, author of
Moving Away From Diets and Eating Well, Living Well

UNDERAGE AND OVERWEIGHT DEALS WITH THE ROOT CAUSES of obesity and discusses the lure and danger of fad diets and other quick-fix solutions. …Clearly written, using charts, tables, and case examples, the author devises ways to effect lasting change in children and start solving the obesity crisis. … Covers a range of useful information.

—Contemporary Pediatrics

THIS BOOK DESCRIBES THE MAGNITUDE of the problem and why the solutions previously tried have not worked. A new perspective is introduced: approaching the problem from a wellness point of view. In this paradigm the necessity of considering the whole child is emphasized. We have to be vigilant regarding intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational health, as well as physical health. I recommend this book to the person willing to consider an alternative to the solutions that we have tried for the last 50 years without success.

— Ann Macpherson de Sánchez, RD
Puerto Rico Extension Nutrition Specialist

BERG SUGGESTS IT’S EASY to start young children off with active habits by incorporating physical activity into their playtime. “The idea is not to have baby workouts,” she advises. “But too many are stuck in the stroller, baby seat, or playpen for long periods.” … It can be a great way to get the grown-up moving, too!

—Children’s Health, Chesapeake Family

WE’RE CONCERNED ABOUT OVERWEIGHT, unfit children because they might already have one or more risk factors for heart disease. They also typically suffer from teasing and ridicule, which can cause stress, anxiety, reduced self-esteem and lower self-confidence. Restrictive diets, diet pills and worse – weight-loss surgery – are potentially harmful and can interfere with a child’s growth and development. So what can we do to safely help children reach a healthy weight?
An expert on the subject, Berg emphasizes how important it is for all children to know they are loved unconditionally. If your child is overweight, your home needs to be a safe haven where he or she can feel good about himself or herself and escape harassment. Berg’s book is filled with compassionate, proven tips.

—Columbia Daily Tribune

THIS BOOK PRESENTS a practical method of intervening in order to address childhood obesity on an individual level. As someone in a busy pediatric practice who has limited time to offer education during the course of a clinic visit, but who sees many children with this problem, I found the overall practical presentation in this book very helpful. There clearly is a need for this approach.

—Doody Reviews

BERG SAYS THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH AGRICULTURE should be opposed to fad diets. For instance, the diet craze Atkins nearly eliminates cereals, major products of American agriculture. “While Atkins is heavy on meats, so people are getting a good source of protein and iron, it lets them down with low carbohydrates. Many other plans are overbalanced with cereals, eliminating the meat. These diet plans are just as unhealthy and unbalanced.” And from the agricultural community’s viewpoint, detrimental economically. The trouble is that in the United States, we tend to do things by extremes. Instead of following an extreme diet plan, Berg advocates that youngsters and adults alike use balance, variety and moderation in their eating habits, following the food pyramid.

—Country Lifestyle, Farm Talk

THE TIPS PROVIDED IN UNDERAGE & OVERWEIGHT are intended for anyone working with children. The target audience is not limited to parents or other caregivers, but also for any person who has a direct impact on life of the overweight child (teachers, school administrators, doctors, nurses, and health care workers). The compilation of research and relevant interventions is helpful for future reference as well.

—East Carolina University

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT RESOURCE BOOK …. Comprehensive. Offers practical solutions to a serious problem.

—What’s New Magazine

CONCERNS ABOUT CHILDREN’S WEIGHT are bookended by obesity on one side and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia on the other. “Obesity and eating disorders are part of the same problem,” and both are increasing, Berg says. “Sometimes when people are trying to fix one problem, they cause another.” Normalizing eating and activity should be a strong focus to helping overweight kids, she writes. Cultural factors such as the widespread substitution of fast food for family meals, “the death of the family dinner,” and a jump in sedentary living for children disturbs that normalcy. Berg recommends three goals for parents and kids: Live actively, eat well and feel good about yourself and others.

—Bismarck Tribune

BERG ADVISES PARENTS TO FIND WAYS for kids to be more active. She says “physical activity should be worked into the family lifestyle so it seems normal and natural. Kids love to be active, but if you let them sit around they will.” Berg describes the “death of family meal time” as unfortunate, suggesting that meals taken together as a family, without the television on, is critical to good health and nutrition. She advises parents not to force their kids to eat, but to get everyone to the table, serve healthy foods and allow kids to choose what they want to eat. If parents set a good example, then children will follow. “It’s not about making them eat their Brussels sprouts, but providing healthy food and empowering them to make good choices.”

— The Jewish Journal

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