At least 900 Welsh children attend slimming classes

Sweet treats Children attending the slimming club classes are advised about healthy lifestyles

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At least 900 children in Wales attended a slimming club this year alone prompting a call for nursery-aged youngsters to be taught healthy eating.

During one week in July, nearly 170 children aged between 11 and 15 attended sessions in Wales run by a weight-loss club.

Public Health Wales figures showed over 28% of five-year-olds are overweight, with 12.5% of children obese.

The National Obesity Forum said healthy eating needs to be taught earlier.

Tam Fry, who is also chair of the Child Growth Foundation, told BBC Radio Wales: "What we haven't done in this country is start young enough.

Ethan Kilby: Young Slimmer

Ethan Kilby

Ethan, 13, is among the members of a Slimming World class in Caerphilly county.

He goes to his local kick boxing class in New Tredegar four times a week.

But he found he could not compete in his chosen sport in the right weight category for his age.

He has lost 6lb (2.7kg) since joining the slimming class in April.

"I was going to the world championships and when my kick boxing instructor read out the categories I thought I don't want to be in the bigger people's categories because they're much taller and much heavier so I decided to go to Slimming World," he said.

"Before I used to have half a pack of biscuits with a cup of tea and that was a treat for me.

"I have more fat free yogurts and fruit than I used to have before.

I felt grumpy at times and sad because I know I could be healthier.

Ethan attends slimming sessions with his aunt, Ceri Robins, who said: "I'm glad he's made the choice himself to do it."

"There's a lot of emphasis on teaching children how to eat healthily in mainstream school, in primary and secondary. But actually it should begin much earlier."

Mr Fry explained that in Scotland they are starting to teach nursery age children about healthy living and what is good food and what is bad.

"That's the time to get the messages across because the younger these children are the more able they are to take on these messages and you hope that they'll keep those messages for the rest of their life."

He also said he was not surprised at the numbers of children attending Slimming World classes in Wales.

"If you look at the problem in the country as a whole, it's a very, very small number," said Mr Fry.

"I think it's a great idea if there's a facility, but it's only a good idea if the end result is that children don't put weight back on once they come off the courses."

"It's the long term effect which will prove the value of the exercise but I think the exercise is worth it."

Start Quote

The emphasis is on praising young people for healthy eating and increased physical activity and improving their self-esteem and confidence rather than weight loss”

End Quote Spokesperson Slimming World

A report on childhood obesity published by the National Assembly for Wales in July said the rates of childhood obesity in Wales are the highest in the UK, with about 35% of children aged under 16 being overweight or obese in 2011.

At diet classes adults learn about how to eat healthily and they are weighed to check their progress.

Slimming World said its Free2Go sessions attended by 11 to 15-year-olds encourage them to eat fruit, vegetables and lean meats with the aim of making healthy lifestyle choices.

A Slimming World spokesperson said: "The emphasis is on praising young people for healthy eating and increased physical activity and improving their self-esteem and confidence rather than weight loss."

The company says it supports around 21,000 11-15 year olds a year across the UK with 6,000 being members of a group at any one time.

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