Childhood obesity has been a constant growing concern for many pediatricians and groups in America. In the last few decades, the average weight of Americans has exploded exponentially. Not only has the weight for adults exploded, it also has for kids. While some signs point towards a decline in obesity rates, still 1 child out of every six in America is obese. These numbers mean that childhood obesity impacts almost every neighborhood and area in the nation.
For young children, parents need to be conscious about how their children are developing. Childhood obesity has the potential to not only impact your child in their adolescence, but it can have lifelong implications as well. For starters, habits developed in youth typically continue into adulthood. Unhealthy lifestyle patterns can lead to later issues with diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension among other things. As a result, in general, many obese children continue into adulthood as obese adults.
While just looking at the statistics can be disheartening, there nevertheless is some hope. With knowing the signs and causes of childhood obesity, parents and communities can fight back to reduce its occurrence. In this article, we want to talk more in depth about the factors surrounding childhood obesity. We first want to talk through the symptoms and health effects. We then cover the causes and finally some ways to begin to address the problem.
Symptoms and Health Effects of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has become so prevalent that in many ways we don’t notice it anymore. The weight of the average American has grown so dramatically that most people have no idea what determines if someone is obese. Beyond even that, many people might be shocked at some people who scientifically speaking are obese.
While we might not notice weight as a problem anymore, we still should have more concern than we do. For parents, that means that you need to know what symptoms and health effects to pay attention to. Childhood obesity can have a significant impact on a child’s overall health. Furthermore, it can go on to impact their development later in life. For these reasons, parents need to know what to look out for when it comes to a child’s weight. Let’s talk through some of the symptoms and health effects of childhood obesity.
We all assume that we know what obesity looks like when we see it. Before you can determine if your child has childhood obesity, though, you really need to know the symptoms and how they manifest. Some children carry extra weight without actually being obese. Can you tell the difference, though? Knowing further symptoms can help you more clearly demarcate troubling obesity from more normal childhood extra weight.
The main method used to identify obesity in both children and adults is the body mass index (BMI). A person’s BMI is based on a number of factors including their age, their weight, and their height. Since this takes into account more than just weight, doctors and scientists see it as a better overall measure of a person’s health. Generally, someone with a BMI greater than the 95th percentile of others in the same age and height group is considered obese.
If you notice your child putting on weight, you should consult with your doctor to measure your child’s BMI. In addition to checking your child’s BMI, you should also look out for other cues of a weight problem in your child. Symptoms can include sudden weight gain, poor self-esteem, having little energy, and an overall sedentary lifestyle. If you notice several of these issues, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician about whether or not obesity is a concern.
Knowing the symptoms helps to identify childhood obesity, but you also need to be aware of the health effects. Many pediatricians are concerned about childhood obesity because of the various health effects it can have on a person’s life. Since children are still growing and developing, early weight problems can have impacts that last well into adulthood.
First, childhood obesity can have several negative physical consequences. It can increase a child’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, and sleep disorders among other complications. Furthermore, childhood obesity sets up negative life patterns that increase the likelihood of children being unhealthy later in life.
Beyond the physical concerns, though, childhood obesity can also negatively impact a child’s mental and emotional health. An overweight child is 3 times as at risk for developing depression as their peers. Overweight children tend to become targets of bullying and being left out of social settings. Additionally, their opinions about themselves tend to be negative and they develop low self-esteem.
Taking into consideration all the effects of childhood obesity, the picture isn’t pretty. The evidence clearly points to obesity having a significant impact on a child’s existence. In light of this, parents and children really need to work together to mitigate its potential impact. Let’s now look at some causes of obesity and how to prevent it.
Underlying Causes of Childhood Obesity
Again, we all probably think we know the causes of childhood obesity. Almost anyone would say that eating too much food leads to being overweight. While this is true, there nevertheless exists other issues that either cause overeating or work in other ways to cause obesity. Let’s look at some of the most critical underlying factors.
First, a significant driver of childhood obesity happens to be family genetics. If a child’s family members happen to be overweight, they have an increased chance of becoming obese. This connection doesn’t make obesity a 100% certainty, but it does stack the odds against the child. Unfortunately, you can do little to address genetics. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work to live an overall healthy and active lifestyle.
Someone with a family history of obesity can live a normal healthy life by strictly managing their diet and staying active. Nonetheless, if your family history has many cases of obesity, you need to pay extra attention to your child’s diet and exercise. Once negative eating patterns develop, they can be difficult to unlearn. For someone with a genetic predisposition towards gaining weight, they need the best chance they can get with having a consistent healthy diet.
Secondly, another primary driver of childhood obesity in children involves what our children consume. Over the last several decades, our diets have steadily gotten worse. On the whole, children today eat more sugar and processed foods than children one or two generations ago. Furthermore, not only do children eat poor food, they eat more of it. Our meal portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last several years. All this adds up to disaster if parents don’t closely monitor and regulate what children eat.
Childhood obesity has grown in part because families are too busy to eat healthy anymore. Fast food diets have become the regular go-to for many households on the run. Fewer and fewer families cook together anymore let alone sit down and eat together. These aspects of our modern culture all point to negative unhealthy eating patterns. In the end, this leaves us all overweight and unhappy and increases childhood obesity overall.
Finally, a last major contributor to the rise in childhood obesity has been inactive lifestyles. Thirty years ago or more, most children played outside regularly. They had less access to TV and little to no access to video games or the internet. For better or worse, that landscape has changed dramatically. Whereas, once upon a time, no child worried about having a cell phone, now children in kindergarten have them. Most of the time, they use them for everything but talking on them.
These days, children spend on average way too much time on devices such as phones, tablets, and video game consoles. As a result they spend significantly less time—if much time at all—playing outside or engaging in sports. Pediatricians recommend most children get at a minimum of 60 minutes of consistent exercise each day. Nowadays, though, most children barely get close to 30 minutes and that oftentimes might only come during gym activities at school.
Our bodies were not designed to be inactive for such long periods. Our culture, though, and new lifestyle norms have made it so inaction is how we operate regularly. This leaves our children to struggle with obesity as they simply can’t burn off enough calories to combat all the unhealthy food they regularly eat.
Ways to Address Childhood Obesity
Next we need to look at specific ways to treat childhood obesity when identified. Since obesity can have multiple causes, treatment might not always seem so straightforward. Additionally, if genetics works against you, you might feel like you have no hope to fight back.
In reality, though, no matter the underlying causes anyone can work towards reducing the impact of childhood obesity. Even with genetics playing a factor, how you eat and how you exercise and how you feel overall can go a long way towards lowering the chances of childhood obesity. Let’s discuss some simple tips on starting to fight obesity today.
Get Active Yourself
The first step towards addressing childhood obesity involves looking at your own behavior. Many times our children become obese as a result of modeling the inactive lifestyles of their parents. After all, children aren’t born knowing how to eating junk food and sit around all day. Instead, children learn behaviors and attitudes from those around them and most of all from their parents.
Instead of scolding your child that they need to get active, you need to get moving yourself first. If you don’t already do something active for 60 minutes a day, you need to start doing that now. Whether you go for a morning run or hit the gym, you need to start doing something. After you establish a regular routine, invite your child to join in with you.
Being active yourself sets a positive example for your child to follow. It also takes away the excuse from your kids that they don’t need to do anything since you never exercise yourself. Instead, as you start to get more active and have more energy, your children will start to naturally want to follow along. As both you and they get more active, you can effectively reduce the impact of childhood obesity on your home.
Get Active as a Family
Next, to fight childhood obesity, you need to encourage physical activity as a group. You getting active on your own helps some. What your children really want, though, is interaction with you and with others. We all want and need that. Plus, getting outside and getting moving is almost always more fun with company.
The idea behind all of this is to teach and encourage healthy lifestyle habits that your children can pick up on and keep doing. Many children settle into playing video games or watching TV because in their minds that’s what everyone else is doing. As a parent, you need to break them of that thinking and show them a different model altogether. You need to show them that a lot of people enjoy getting up and getting active.
Getting active as a family should be a fun enjoyable activity. Things you can do together include going to a park or to the beach or for a hike. You can also consider fun activities like going to a trampoline center or playing a sport like tennis or soccer. If you set up a regular rhythm of getting active, your kids will start to enjoy the activity and they won’t want to go back to a sedentary lifestyle.
Provide Healthy Well Balanced Snacks and Meals
Thirdly, getting active only goes so far with fighting childhood obesity. To really make sure you stand a chance at reducing obesity, you also need to look at your diet. Your child could exercise every day, but if they never eat a well-balanced diet they might still not be able to get their weight in check. To aid your efforts, you need to also be sure they regularly eat healthy foods.
This means that you as the parent need to be actively involved in planning out meals and snacks for your children. To make this work, you need to stay away from processed and sugary foods as much as possible. Instead, trade out these options for fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Using fresh foods might require more planning and preparation. In the end, though, you and your child will feel much better about what you eat. You also will find it easier to fight off childhood obesity.
A healthy diet impacts so much of our lives. If your diet is unhealthy, chances are the rest of your life will be unhealthy as well. For your child’s overall health, think proactively about making sure they eat the right foods that their bodies need.
Each week, plan out each meal and snack of their day. If you need healthy ideas for meals, check out suggestions at this link. Similarly, for healthy snacks you can find ideas in this article. Once you have an idea of what you should feed your kids, make sure it happens and that you follow through.
Working to Resolve Childhood Obesity with your Pediatrician
Hopefully this article has helped provide some information for identifying the symptoms and causes of childhood obesity and how to address them well. One last thing we want to mention, though, is to be sure to involve your pediatrician in the conversation. For starters, you can work with your pediatrician to clearly identify if your child’s weight has become a problem. After this has been determined, your doctor can provide you with resources on addressing the issue. In the end, your child’s pediatrician wants to see your child grow healthy and strong. Fighting childhood obesity is just as important to them as it is to you.
In conclusion, childhood obesity has become a greater threat in our culture, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fight back against it. As a parent, you have enormous influence over what your child eats and how active they are. As a result, you need to regularly encourage healthy diets and active living.
Beyond that, regularly talk with your pediatrician about proactive steps to stay healthy. Living a consistently healthy life can help your child’s immune system to fight off diseases such as the flu. Additionally, consistent healthy living fights obesity and encourages proper development and mental stability. Start working towards all of these goals today with encouraging healthy life practices overall.