Obesity summit aims to create healthier families

Angel Knoverek offers her daughter, Victorya, a cherry tomato as sons Nickolas and Alexzander munch on celery with peanut butter for snacks before dinner. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Jan. 18, 2013 9:39 am Updated: Feb. 1, 2013 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Angel Knoverek doesn't want to worry about what her 9-year-old daughter thinks of her.

Knoverek's long brown hair dangled near a pair of trendy brown earrings during a recent interview. Those earrings accented an autumn-toned top that peeked outside of a neat-fitting jacket. Even more accomplished than her style is her doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Regent University. Knoverek, a counselor at Chaddock, has the look, career and credentials of a professional.

Still, she has one more milestone to achieve.

For the past 17 years, Knoverek has struggled to meet her weight loss goal, but now she sees the influence her weight could have on her daughter, Victorya.

This time, she's determined to succeed for her own health and her family's.

"This isn't the best me that I can offer her as an example and a role model," Knoverek, also a mother of two boys, said. "I don't want her to struggle with these issues."

Knoverek will sit on a panel Saturday at the Get Up and Move! childhood obesity summit. The summit focuses on ways to improve health for the whole family, and Knoverek hopes to add a family perspective to the conversation. She understands the difficulties with pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but she also knows the importance of achieving it. She fears her children may pick up unhealthy habits from her appearance, and she has 40 pounds to drop before she reaches what she considers a healthy weight.

"I'd rather get another Ph.D. than try to lose this," Knoverek said.

Carrie Kimber, a chairwoman for the summit, invited Knoverek to sit with Lori Carlson, a social worker with Quincy Medical Group, Dr. Rachel Yankey of Blessing Physician Services, and Blessing Hospital dietitian Beth Troutt. These experts, along with Joe Company with Endurance Co. of Columbia, Mo., will search for solutions to a steadily increasing obesity problem in Adams County.

Earl Bricker, director of community impact with the United Way of Adams County, said obesity has increased significantly the past two years. Thirty-one percent of Adams County adults have a body mass index of 30 or more, a number that has climbed 5 percent from Adams County's 2010 data. At the same time, the national number of obese adults dropped from 26 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2012. The percent of obese people in Illinois increased 1 percent from 26 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2012.

Kimber hopes this conversation with parents, educators and physicians will help locals identify small changes needed to shape healthier families.

"You can't be that parent that sits there on the couch," Kimber said. "We can get those adults to get active and get people to think about it."

Carlson explained that reducing obesity in families involves entire lifestyle changes rather than merely altering dieting choices. She said many families in her practice live on fast foods and frozen pizzas. These highly processed foods may be economical and convenient, but rarely are they healthful to eat. Obesity often increases in busy or economically unstable situations.

"All these things are connected with education, health and income," Bricker said. "We know that if we can move the needle on one or more of these things, then everything will be affected positively."

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates 11.4 percent of Adams County residents live inactive lifestyles with little to no physical activity. The 2010 Illinois Youth Survey showed only 23 percent of high school seniors reported participating in some sort of physical activity every day.

The summit will encourage movement both during the session and after. The afternoon will feature jumping rope, Zumba, karate and making healthful snacks intertwined with lectures on family nutrition, the emotional impact of obesity, maintaining an active family lifestyle and the national perspective on childhood obesity.

"I don't think we'd be doing anybody a service by saying "fat, fat, fat.' We want to talk about "healthy, healthy, healthy,'?" Bricker said.

The afternoon will close with a town hall discussion about the best ways to implement more healthful lifestyles. The agencies have discussed developing community porch nights designed to bring families in neighborhoods outside of their home.

"We need to reteach the kids how to play outside," Kimber said.

Before a parent can successfully help his or her child, Knoverek believes he or she must change habits of his or her own.

"As parents, we understand our influence on our children's lives hopefully," Knoverek said. "Hopefully, we're helping to shape them into productive, kind, compassionate, healthy adults."

Knoverek's motivation on her weight loss journey stems from that desire to help her children.

She's incorporating healthful living into her home. Her family may enjoy an occasional brownie or a handful of potato chips, but a bowl of fruit also is on the table for snacks. The family avoids meals from boxes and focuses on more healthful meals from the slow cooker. Victorya may see her mother's natural glamour, but the mom staring back at her wants her daughter to recognize the benefits of a more healthful lifestyle.

That attitude about proper influence and activity changing lifestyles is what the summit hopes to encourage.

"I want to help her love who she is despite what the scale says, and be confident and not have all of her worth tied up with what the mirror and the scale say," Angel said.