The prevalence of childhood obesity is reaching unhealthy levels. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nationally, 18.5% of adolescents (persons considered age 2-19) fall in the category of being obese. This number has more than tripled since the 1970s. Research shows the prevalence of obesity decreases the more educated parents and children are about what can be done to prevent obesity.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is more than just a number on a scale. The body mass index (BMI) chart determines when a person is considered obese or at risk of becoming obese. Plainly stated, the BMI measures the body size. It takes into consideration your weight and height to produce a number that is measured against a chart. The chart indicates whether your weight is an ideal healthy weight or indicates whether you fall under or over the ideal. Obesity occurs when the BMI is at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC’s sex-specific age growth charts.
What Causes Obesity?
U.S. News reports obesity is a “multifactorial” disease. Some people are prone to weight gain through their genetics. Harvard pediatrics professor Cody Sanford said, “What we do know is weight is more heritable than height. The likelihood that parents with obesity will have a child who is lean is very low. That’s important for us to recognize. We don’t think about heritability when we think about treatment.”
Resulting from genetic makeup is metabolism. Metabolism is responsible for converting food and oxygen to energy. Some people have fast metabolisms while other people’s bodies struggle to keep up with the caloric intake. While genetics and metabolism may be tough to change, there are several other factors contributing to obesity that can be controlled.
Eating and physical activity are huge influences in weight gain. These are direct. What you eat puts on weight and physical activity helps take it off. Little sleep, unsafe communities or neighborhoods, or negatively experienced events can all contribute to obesity. The common denominator is that each of those causes stress and stress typically raises our desire to eat while simultaneously slowing down our metabolism.
What Can You Do To Reduce Childhood Obesity?
As a parent, you should monitor your child regularly and consult with a doctor if you feel your child may be at risk. To help avoid obesity, follow these tips below and start improving your child’s health.
- Diet: At some point in school, your child will learn about the food pyramid and its lessons in eating a balanced diet. As a parent, this should already be on your mind and you should be thinking of feeding your child foods that have adequate nutrition and an appropriate amount of calories. Three ways to curb obesity is to establish healthy eating habits early, modify favorite dishes so they are healthier, and reduce as many calorie-rich snacks and temptations as you can. Most of these suggestions can be accomplished by becoming more aware of what each type of food offers. Swap out salty and sweet snacks for carrot sticks or bananas. If your main dish is macaroni and cheese, add a side of vegetables to make it more balanced. Small changes will go a long way in establishing healthy eating habits. This will help kids feel more energized.
- Exercise: If you provide a balanced diet for your child, they will have the energy to partake in physical activity to keep their bodies moving and healthy. The CDC recommends children should be moderately active every day for about 60 minutes. They also say children should have their screen time limited to no more than two hours. The goal is to encourage children to seek a more active lifestyle. If they don’t like the outside, find an indoor playground for them to play around on. Exercise should be fun, not a chore. If you regularly exercise, it will set a good example for your child. Take them swimming, let them come running with you, or have them ride their bikes while you jog alongside. It can be anything: find horseback riding lessons, play soccer, have them take some dance lessons, or ask if they want to join the baseball team. Not only will it get them up and moving, but it will also develop hobbies, pastimes, and close friends which all contribute to a happier, less stressful livelihood.
- Create a Safe Environment: Stress can cause a cascade of negative effects that could contribute to obesity. Stress messes with hormones and when hormones are unbalanced, this can lead to weight gain and cravings of sugary foods. One way to reduce stress is to ensure your child is subjected to safe living environments. This means pay attention to what they are telling you. Are they scared? Are they being bullied? What makes them uncomfortable?
- Start Young: The best way to build a safe environment is to start young and make them feel an open line of communication. They should feel they can come to you with any problems or concerns. One way to start building them a safe community is to enroll them in preschool programs. About three-fourths of young children participate in a preschool program. These programs help establish a sense of routine. There’s a reliable order when it comes to structured learning and if this can be instilled at a young age, it will likely carry through to older ages. Preschool is also a great way to establish a community of peers for your child. They interact and develop social skills in the classroom where they can play with toys and climb around an indoor playground. Routine and a sense of community will greatly reduce stress.
What is the Problem with Obesity?
If obesity is not controlled, the excess weight is detrimental to the child’s health. The Urgent Care Association of America estimates about 3 million patients see urgent care centers. Obesity lowers the quality of health putting your child at risk to be one of those 3 million patients. If obesity is prolonged, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disorders, and even some kinds of cancer. It’s best to take serious measures to present unnecessary weight gain and talk to your pediatric doctor if you have any concerns.
Obesity is a problem in the United States, but with careful attention to your child and their needs, you can help remedy the problem. Obesity is determined by BMI and can result from a multitude of factors. While some may be due to genetics, other factors can be curbed by putting in a little effort. Make sure your child eats a balanced diet and participates in regular exercise. Also, ensure they feel safe and have a comfortable learning environment. These little factors will help reduce unnecessary stress and decrease the chances of obesity.