Childhood obesity is on the rise. The cause could be due to the increase in sedentary lifestyles our children are now leading. Video games, computer games and television have replaced the activities that required physical activity in childhood such as riding bikes, playing sports and other outdoor activities.
Today in many families both parents work and time is limited for meal planning and preparation for healthy and nutritious meals. Many times in the rush to get the children fed we simply purchase fast food or prepackaged meals which lack appropriate nutrition for our children. Our children buy fast foods at the snack bar or vending machine for lunch instead of bringing a healthy lunch from home.
All of these facts have led to the rise in childhood obesity and it is at epidemic proportions. In the United States alone studies have shown that 1 in 3 children are overweight. The physical effects of obesity can be devastating to our children’s health and well being both now and in the future.
Is Your Child at Risk?
Do you know your child’s weight? Have you taken a good look at your child recently to determine if they are putting on excess weight? Is your child physically active? It is time to evaluate whether your child is at risk for childhood obesity.
Obesity and being overweight is usually determined using the body mass index (BMI) which is calculated using their height and weight. There are charts available to get the BMI or you can calculate it on your own. To calculate the BMI divide your child’s weight in pounds, by their height in inches squared and multiply the result by the conversion factor of 703 or use a BMI calculator, many are available on the internet. Then using a standard BMI chart you can determine if your child is overweight.
If you have noticed weight gain in your child speak to your child’s pediatrician to rule out any medical reason for the weight gain. There are many medical conditions that could cause your child to be gaining weight and your doctor can evaluate your child to determine if further tests are necessary to rule out possible medical causes for weight gain. Ask the doctor for recommended nutrition and exercise for your child’s age and ability. Determine what your child’s appropriate weight should be and make a plan to reach that goal. Work with your child’s physician for safe healthy weight loss planning.
Childhood Obesity Can Carry to Adulthood
The physical effects that obesity has on our children can lead to serious health issues both in childhood and continue through their adult years. Many studies have shown that children who are overweight before the age of 8 years are at a much higher risk of serious health complications related to obesity in their adult years. Childhood obesity places your child at risk for serious illness such as diabetes, sleep apnea, respiratory conditions such as asthma are more complicated, cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol and other serious conditions that will follow them as they grow.
Childhood obesity not only affects a child’s physical health it can also take its toll on your child’s emotional state. They are often teased and ridiculed leading to low self esteem, decreased confidence and depression or social isolation.
Take Action to Prevent Childhood Obesity
As a parent you need to take responsibility for your child’s health and lead by example. Parents can help prevent their children from suffering the effects of obesity by setting a good example for their children, adapting necessary changes in the families eating and exercise plans to teach them to lead healthy lifestyles.
Meal planning can be difficult in a busy schedule but there are some simple things you can do to improve your child’s nutrition. Avoid having unhealthy sodas in the home; instead keep water and healthy juices well stocked in the refrigerator. Do not purchase unhealthy snack foods to have in the home. Instead of cookies and chips for afterschool snacks instead have fruits or vegetables available. Read the labels at the market and purchase foods that offer a higher nutritional value for your children. Make sure your child gets a good multivitamin.
Plan your weekend activities that involve the whole family for some physical activity. A family bike ride or picnic in the park with a sport the family enjoys together. Get your family out for a camping trip with swimming, water skis, boating and hiking. Even if your weekdays are full, you have some time on the weekends to get your child active and help prevent childhood obesity. Time together as a family is not only great for bonding with your children but it can be healthy as well.