Program promotes women's health

Parents should balance children's exercise with time on the computer.
YOUNGSTOWN -- After a few hours, Katie Lamar's attitudes toward eating seemed to grow a bit healthier.
"I think of myself differently now, and different ways to eat in situations," said Katie, 11, of Cortland. "I care more about what I eat instead of how much or why."
Katie's mother, Jennifer Lamar, said she viewed attending a series of workshops Saturday at Youngstown State University as an opportunity to spend more time with her daughter, and as a reprieve from her family's busy schedule.
The two were among about 120 girls ages 11 to 14, as well as their mothers and grandmothers, who participated in Saturday's "Uniquely Me" event at YSU's Kilcawley Center, sponsored by the Niles-based Girl Scouts of America Lake to River Council.
Series of workshops
The six-hour program featured a series of workshops designed to promote health and wellness in girls and women. Also addressed in a variety of ways were issues such as self-image and self-acceptance.
Margaret Christopher of Poland, who came with her daughter Abbey, 14, said she appreciates the workshops' focus on allowing the teenagers to "appreciate who you are." The sessions affirmed what she tries to instill in her four children, Christopher said.
"I realize I have to be more self-confident to be successful. If not, it will show," Abbey added.
Participants were divided into groups and took part in any of six workshops that had speakers with information on getting the best fit in jeans and bras for various body sizes; learning relaxation techniques; and showing mothers how to spot eating disorders in their teenage daughters. One class had the mothers and daughters join together to practice line dance moves for exercise.
Keynote speaker
The event's keynote speaker was Karen Vadino, a motivational speaker with a background in social work. Using humor, self-effacement and numerous personal anecdotes, Vadino, of Liberty, said she tried to get those in her audience to accept themselves as they are.
Despite having a weight problem, "I like me; I like me a lot," Vadino said. "If you like who you are, that will lead to making good choices in life," she continued.
Capping off the day was a session with dietitians from Humility of Mary Health Partners, who offered tips on maintaining a healthy diet.
Eating disorders
In one roundtable question-and-answer session, several mothers expressed concern regarding foods with little nutritional value being readily available to kids, as well as various eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Such disorders can cause a lack of estrogen, which can lead to ulcers, organ failure and cancer, the group was told.
Many people with eating disorders adopt rituals like hiding food in a napkin, moving it around on a plate and adding condiments to deliberately make the item taste bad, explained Lindsay Gibson, one of the speakers.
The mothers were given ideas for buying healthy foods that are inexpensive.
Having hectic lifestyles should not be an excuse for excluding exercise, said Joy Polkabla Byers, assistant director of programs for YSU's Department of Campus Recreation. Polkabla Byers demonstrated deep-breathing and relaxation exercises for the girls and their mothers.
Obesity rate triples
Since the early 1970s, the rate of obesity in young females across the country has tripled, noted Lori Shandor, the Lake to River's development and marketing specialist. In the past three years, the rate has leveled off in women, though it continues to rise in girls under 18, she said.
Despite an increase in the number of health clubs being built in recent years, the obesity rate continues to climb in girls largely because many youngsters are spending more time in front of the TV or computer, Shandor noted, adding that many parents aren't home enough to monitor their kids' time doing these and other sedentary activities. A balance between exercise and time on the computer needs to be established, she added.
Shandor said that "Uniquely Me" was intended to be fun and to encourage sharing and bonding, and that it was aptly timed to precede Mother's Day.