Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard the news: our children are obese and the statistics are downright scary. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. Children from the United States are the most likely to be overweight of all industrialized countries in the world!
So, we’re overweight, our kids are overweight and we’ve got a big problem on our hands because obese kids usually become obese adults. If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that the children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, the children have an 80 percent chance of being obese. Studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.
These numbers may sound scary, but there is something you can do if you have a child who is overweight or obese. First, you need to educate yourself a little on the dangers of obesity for your child. Some of those dangers include:
- Low self-esteem
- Increased risk of Type II diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Trouble with bones and joints
- Sleep Disorders
- Genetics. Children of obese/overweight parents have a greater risk of obesity
- Diet. Many of us eat out, making home cooked meals almost non-existent. We’re eating more fast food and foods that are high in calories and offer very little nutrition. Another major factor is that many kids are drinking extra calories that come from sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Physical inactivity. Television, computers, video games and other things entertain our children while keeping them sitting around for hours at a time. Experts cite physical inactivity as the major cause of childhood obesity.
- Environment. Our schools are also to blame since, on average, most kids have only 2.1 PE classes per week, totaling 68.7 minutes (from the NIH) Some experts also believe that children are over-exposed to commercials for fast foods, candy, sodas, etc.
Children who are obese not only face health problems, but psychological consequences as well. Other kids might be picking on them in school because of their weight, which can only make things worse. Understanding some of the causes of childhood obesity can help you see where you’re going wrong so you can start making better decisions for you and your family.
What Causes Childhood Obesity?
There can be several causes for obesity:
The good news is that most of the causes of obesity can be changed. If your child is overweight or on the road to obesity, what can you do to help him or her lose weight and establish a healthy lifestyle?
Changing your child’s eating and exercise habits means changing your own as well. After all, you’re in charge of what your child eats at home and how much exercise he gets when he gets home from school. Plus, you’re a role model. If you exercise and eat healthy, your child will see that and follow suit.
In the absence of a physical disorder, the only way to lose weight is to reduce the number of calories being eaten and to increase the child’s or adolescent’s level of physical activity. Lasting weight loss can only occur when there is self-motivation. Since obesity often affects more than one family member, making healthy eating and regular exercise a family activity can improve the chances of successful weight control for the child or adolescent.
Most experts agree that helping your child lose weight is a family affair. Everyone should be involved in planning meals, buying food and coming up with ways to be active together.
Some tips offered by the NIH include:
- Don’t keep junk food in the house. If it’s not there, they can’t eat it and neither can you.
- Get rid of sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family.
- If you do eat fast food, educate yourself about the healthy choices available. Many restaurants have nutritional information available at their websites or in the restaurant.
- Don’t worry if your child won’t eat healthy foods at first. It takes time to change how we eat, so be patient and keep trying.
- Don’t use food as a reward for good behavior.
Obesity frequently becomes a lifelong issue. The reason most obese adolescents gain back their lost pounds is that after they have reached their goal, they go back to their old habits of eating and not exercising. An obese adolescent must therefore learn to eat and enjoy healthy foods in moderate amounts and to exercise regularly to maintain the desired weight. Parents of an obese child can improve their child’s self-esteem by emphasizing the child’s progress in eating habits and commitment to exercise. And while you are at it, show your child that you, as their parent, is willing to walk the walk and talk the talk and commit yourself to eating healthy and exercising regularly.