When it comes to the health and wellbeing of our children, nothing poses as much of a threat as childhood obesity. According to the American Heart Association, the number one health concern of parents in the United States is childhood obesity, which tops both drug abuse and smoking. At such a young age, it’s important for parents to understand what obesity is and how to prevent it amongst their children.
Obesity is defined by having excess body fat that is beyond the normal range for a person’s height, age, and body composition. Important factors in determining whether or not a person is overweight or obese is the body mass index (BMI) values found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth chart. Both health problems have short-term and long-term effects on the body. However, obesity amongst children has more than doubled and quadrupled amongst teens in the past 30 years, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
What Causes Obesity?
Different factors can play a role in the development of obesity, such as poor eating habits, not enough exercise, psychological and environmental changes, and genetics. However, obesity can simply be caused by consuming more calories than the body burns off. Not only can this create poor self-esteem and depression, but also contribute to:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Pre-diabetes (high blood glucose levels present a risk for developing diabetes in later years)
- Respiratory/breathing issues
- Sleep problems
How Can Childhood Obesity Be Prevented?
First, it’s important to find a good pediatrician or family care doctor to stay on track with annual physicals and check-ups. In order to diagnose obesity, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends a comprehensive medical evaluation to find any possible underlying physical causes. Before trying any diet or exercise program for your child, it is important to first consult with a medical professional to make sure any plan made is healthy and well-suited for your child’s current condition. Try working together as a family in order to:
- Make eating healthy fun! — Try taking some of your child’s favorite meals and turn them nutritious with extra vegetables. Include them in meal planning and cooking so he or she can feel involved in the process.
- Become an active family together. — Your child needs support during such a transition, so work together by finding an activity the entire family enjoys, such as soccer, running around with the family dog, or Frisbee.
- Choose healthy rewards. — Instead of treating your son or daughter to a McFlurry at McDonald’s for their great report card, try rewarding them in a better way. Instead, opt for low-fat frozen yogurt.
- Have family meals at the table. — Don’t let your dinner table collect dust. Instead of eating dinner in front of the television, sit down together as a family. Talking about each other’s days can help slow down how fast you and your family eat, aiding in better digestion.
- Always be encouraging. — With your new routine, your child will have his or her good and bad days. Try not to focus on the mistakes, but encourage their good behavior and help get them back on track.
By working together as a family, childhood obesity can be prevented and treated. To get started on a new way of life, call us today at (407) 335-4760 to schedule an evaluation and create a healthy weight-management plan for your child.