Program helps Island families reshape habits

Has received ongoing funding and will be available in the Central Island region permanently.

A pilot program that helps families get active, adopt better eating habits, and stay healthy has received ongoing funding and will be available in the Central Island region permanently.

“It’s kind of neat, because we’re the only ongoing program on Vancouver Island,” said Louise Kirkhope, social worker / coordinator with the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

Central Island Healthy Lifestyles: Shapedown BC is a 10 week intensive program, where families work with a dietitian, social worker, physician and fitness instructor to build healthier lifestyles.

“It’s not a boot camp, and it’s not promoted as a weight loss program,” Kirkhope said. The program is offered to families “seeking support making positive changes.”

Funding for the program, established in 2006, comes from the BC Children’s Hospital, which announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, that $230,000 would be available for Vancouver Island in the coming year.

The program is also offered in the Fraser and Interior health regions.

It is available to families with children aged 6 to 17 (in age ranges of 6-8, 9-12 and 13-17). A referral from a doctor is required to register, and Kirkhope said Central Island Healthy Lifestyles will help families that need assistance getting a referral.

Participation by parents as well as children is mandatory, and includes a 10 week group program for two hours each Wednesday at Oliver Woods Community Centre in Nanaimo; and a Saturday morning, 11 a.m. to noon family-oriented activity with a fitness instructor, also at Oliver Woods.

Nutrition and eating habits are an important component of the program. For instance, Kirkhope pointed out that many families do not eat together, but have their meals separately, sometimes while engaged in other actives, like watching TV or playing computer games.

“If somebody is sitting in front of a screen and eating, they are eating with distraction,” Kirkhope pointed out.  That means they are likely missing ‘hunger cues’, which can lead to over eating.

Learning about healthy nutrition, diet and activity levels, and setting achievable goals, which are tracked and monitored during the program, is key to making positive changes.

“Each week they are setting positive goals,” Kirkhope said.

About ten families can participate in each 10 week cycle, and three programs are offered each year. Families within the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District can apply to the program, as can families elsewhere in the Central Island and beyond.

For information, phone Central Island Healthy Lifestyles: Shakedown BC at 250-755-7955.