Teens' food, exercise decisions have lasting effect on health, Loyola expert says

News Archive October 17, 2013

Teens' food, exercise decisions have lasting effect on health, Loyola expert says

Dr. Garry Sigman, a Loyola pediatrician, with WJOL radio

Dr. Garry Sigman, a Loyola pediatrician and weight specialist, said when he was in residency he felt the children in the tween and teen years weren't getting as much attention from health care as they needed for their specific health issues.

So he decided to pursue this field of medicine. During an interview with WJOL radio, Dr. Sigman talked about how the teen years are special because of the choices that children this age make and the effect these decisions will have on their health. He said parents will see their children growing into young adults and too quickly assume that they can be as responsible as adults.

But that's not how human development works, said Dr. Sigman, who is the director of Loyola's Pediatric Weight Management Program. It takes years for the mind to catch up with the body. So there is a period of impulsiveness and lack of responsibility that is hard for parents, and others, to understand.

People will say to tweens and teens that they have it so easy, but this is not always the case, Dr. Sigman said. Social problems become much more stressful for children of this age than they are for adults and children can spend a lot of time brooding over these problems.

So what are some signs that your child is going through a hard time? They can have trouble with sleep or getting to sleep; they can act out in unexpected ways, exhibiting behavioral problems; and appear unable to handle stress.

Weight is another tough issue for teens, Dr. Sigman said. They can feel like outcasts if they are overweight. Other kids may pick on them because children at that age don't really make the cognitive leap that "Oh, you have feelings, too."

Dr. Sigman said that since the 1970s the number of overweight kids in the U.S. has tripled. This is not just because kids are eating too much; it's also because they are not moving enough. These kids are at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It's a huge national problem.

Dr. Sigman talked about Loyola's intense 14-week program, which brings together the doctor, child, parents, nutritionist and exercise physiology expert. The child has weekly appointments to assess progress.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 888-LUHS-888 (888-584-7888).

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