One of the nation’s largest-growing health problems is childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 19 percent of children (ages 6-11) and 17 percent of adolescents (ages 12-19) are considered overweight. Sadly these numbers have almost tripled among children and quadrupled among adolescents during the last 25 years. So what does this really mean? This data indicates that 80 percent of these children will likely be overweight as adults, placing them at a higher risk of developing health problems like high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes.
What is obesity? Simply, being obese means having so much body fat that your health is in danger. If we begin to peel away the layers of childhood obesity we can see a pattern. Some obesity is directly related to poor nutritional habits of parents. These parents emulate what they were taught as children. Esteem issues are another determining factor in childhood obesity overweight children are treated differently. They are ridiculed, picked last in activities and made to feel different. Many obese children constantly miss school to avoid the relentless abuse by their peers.
So what can be done? First and foremost consult a physician to make sure your child does not have any underlying medical issues that may be a contributing factor to their obesity. Once an assessment has been made, it’s time to get proactive. Parents should take an active, positive role in teaching their children about good nutrition; even if it requires a parent to face their own bad nutritional habits.
It all starts with an action plan. Develop a family weight loss strategy. Parents need to handle the problem in a positive way to help their child become more physically active, make more nutritious choices and build self-esteem. This will ultimately carry over to adulthood.
Eat right and get moving. Incorporate three nutritional meals a day into your child’s diet as well as healthy snacks. Get excited about getting off the couch. You don’t need to be an athlete or engage in strenuous team sports to get the ball rolling. A simple walk, swim or bike ride will do the trick. Just start slowly; the key is to make exercise fun and enjoyable. The earlier you can incorporate a love for physical activity the more likely they are to keep exercising. It’s also important for your child to get enough good, interrupted sleep.
Unfortunately childhood obesity is epidemic in our country. But the damage can be reversed. We are inundated with fast food and quick packaged meals high in sodium. As parents we need to slow down and take the time to eat as a family. For many of us, we need to learn about good nutrition ourselves so we can, in turn, teach our children about a healthy lifestyle. These tools will ultimately arm our kids so they can prepare for their teenage years and finally adulthood.