Solutions to Childhood Obesity
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by jeff 2 Comments Facebook10Twitter10Google+8LinkedIn4Pinterest18Childhood obesity is a big problem in the United States. Thankfully, over the last few years more people are becoming aware of the problem and are doing something about it. Because of these efforts, weve seen a slight decline in obesity in children. But collectively and individually, we still need to find more solutions to childhood obesity so the numbers can drop even more.
According to the CDC, one in eight preschoolers are obese. Not just overweight obese! And these children have five times more of a chance to become obese adults than their peers at normal weight. Since 1980, the number of obese children ages 6-11 has increased from 7% to 18% and for obese adolescents ages 12-19 there has been an increase from 5% to 18%. These are alarming numbers.
These children have more of a chance of developing major health issues, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol which lead to cardiovascular disease. They can also develop prediabetes, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and psychological problems such as low self-esteem. If they become obese adults, they have a greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. These are serious illnesses that must be prevented if possible.
The rise in childhood obesity over the last 30 years has been caused by a number of factors. But first we must understand what exactly makes children overweight. Obesity is caused when the calories burned during daily activity is less than the number of calories consumed in a day. Over time, the body gains weight and if not addressed, it can become a problem. Its important to know what causes childhood obesity so we can reverse it.
Here are some ways that our communities and schools have failed our childrens health:
Schools have removed or reduced physical education programs
Businesses like grocery stores and banks offer free sugary treats to children, and the kids know this
Advertisements for unhealthy foods pique kids interests with bright colors and cartoon characters
Almost all holidays geared towards kids include mass amounts of candy
Fast food chains lure kids in with playgrounds and toys
School lunches lack nutrition and kids are tempted with soda and snack vending machines
Many teachers reward good behavior with candy, ice cream, etc.
Unless you keep your kids locked in a room (without television), theyre going to be exposed to these issues. This makes the parents job much harder to ensure their kids are eating healthy and getting proper exercise. It is not easy to deny your kids a sucker during a trip to the bank, knowing it may cause a flood of tears and tantrums. And if your child eats the school lunch, how can you be sure theyre spending the money on fruit instead of chips?
Despite these trials, parents are still considered the sole ones responsible for their childs health. If a child is obese, the first ones to get blamed are the parents. Here are some ways many parents have failed in keeping their children at a healthy weight:
Giving in and buying their kids lots of sugary snacks
Not making their kids eat healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains
Allowing their kids to develop lazy hobbies, like playing video games or watching television for hours a day
Taking their kids to fast food restaurants on a regular basis
Its hard for parents to face it when theyve hurt their childs health. Many parents may not even realize theres a problem. When they look at their beautiful child, they dont see the unnecessary weight. All parents should learn to look at their children objectively to see whether or not they have a weight problem.
How Do I Know if My Child is Obese?
The best way to know if your child has a weight problem is to look at their BMI, or Body Mass Index. This is a quick and easy way to measure a childs body fat. It calculates the height and weight of a child and helps determine whether they are at a healthy or unhealthy weight.
Parents can do this at home by searching online for a BMI calculator for children and teens. The results will tell you if your child is at a normal weight, overweight, or obese. As this test does not give an accurate assessment of just how much body fat your child has, if the BMI percentile is high, consult with a doctor to address your concerns.
So if youve determined that your child is either overweight or obese, what can you do about it? First realize that this is a very serious issue and if you dont take action, your child is very likely to face one or more of the health concerns listed previously. Now is the time to stop anything bad from happening. The good news is you dont need drugs or medications to help your child. The not-so-easy news is that the changes you will need to make will likely be hard on your child or the rest of your family.
The easiest and first step to take is to examine your kitchen. Observe your refrigerator and pantry for any unhealthy foods, anything high in sugar or fat. Now you have two options. You can either throw out all that bad food (which is the better option) or just decide that once that food is eaten you will not bring anymore of it into the house. If its not in your home, your child is much less likely to eat it.
Next, you must find healthy food choices to replace the bad food choices. Instead of buying chips, spend your money on apples, carrot sticks, or healthy yogurt for snacking. When shopping at the grocery store, spend more of your time around the parameter of the store and dont buy as many items in the middle aisles. Become a food label reader. Look at how much fat and sugar grams an item has before you buy it and read the ingredients. Avoid anything that has high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, or monosodium glutamate.
Developing a taste for healthy foods can be hard, especially if youre not used to eating them. But the more your child tries different fruits and vegetables, the more their tastes will change. Give them vegetables to eat for dinner and tell them they must eat healthy foods before they can have any snacks.
Avoid fast food restaurants as often as you can, as these are a big contributor to obesity. It is better to eat foods you have at home.
As for exercise, make sure your child (and entire family for that matter) is more active. Limit TV and video game time and encourage them to do something to get their heart rate up. Take a family walk or throw around a ball in the backyard. Visit a park or playground or create a relay race in your home. There are hundreds of ways to make sure your child gets exercise.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Take these simple steps and you will start to see a change in your childs health. While there will still be drawbacks and temptations, it is possible for parents to step up and make a positive difference in the life of their child. Along the journey, be sure to include your child in what youre doing so there arent any surprises. Explain to them the importance of staying healthy and what needs to be done to accomplish a healthy weight.
Overall, let your child know youre on their side and that theyre not alone in this. You love them and will support them in any way you can. Every child that starts living a healthier lifestyle will improve and reduce the cases of childhood obesity in this country, giving Americans a brighter future.
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