According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity in the United States has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. This means that millions of kids are already insulin resistant, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Overweight children also have an increased risk of bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and social and psychological problems.
The long-term health outlook for obese children is not good. If they continue on the same path they are on they will have an increased risk of many types of cancer including breast, colon, pancreatic, thyroid, ovarian, esophageal, gall bladder, and endometrium.
Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for more than 300,000 deaths in America each year. The sad news is that overweight children are likely to become overweight adults. In fact, a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.
What Causes Childhood Obesity
There are many facets to childhood obesity, just like there are many facets to adult obesity. Genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors all play a part. If one parent is obese, a child has a 50% chance of being obese. If both parents are obese, that chance rises to 80%.
There is also a much greater likelihood that a child will suffer with weight problems if the father is obese at the time of conception. However, according to medical professionals, only 1% of obesity is due to physical problems. The top two reasons for childhood obesity are no different than the top reasons for adult obesity: poor eating habits and lack of movement.
We are, in fact, bringing up a generation of “couch potato” kids who are more sedentary than any other kids in the history of this country.
How to Beat the Bulge
Motivating a child to lose weight and gain health must be a family affair. This is especially true if other family members are overweight or family eating and exercise habits are poor. When the whole family decides to make health a priority, it provides an immediate support system for children and holds everyone accountable.
Eating Habit Evaluation: If much of the food consumed in your home is processed, fast or pre-cooked, it is time to make a change. Almost all processed food contains additives and has remarkably little, if any, nutrient value. Begin shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store and make homemade meals from whole, fresh and nutrient rich foods.
This means more vegetables, fruits and other simple, unprocessed foods. Aim for everyone in the house to eat at least 6 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily and get rid of the junk food with ingredients you cannot pronounce.
Stop drinking calories; this means soda, both diet and regular, fruit juices, sports drinks, flavored teas and flavored waters. Drink pure, filtered water, and plenty of it. If you need a boost, put some fresh fruit in the water or a slice of lemon.
Involve the whole family in meal planning and shopping. This way everyone feels a part of the plan and honestly embraces the move towards health. Be sure that everyone is eating three meals a day and limiting snacking and eating outside of the home.
If your children are in school, send healthy packed lunches and don’t rely on cafeteria food, no matter how quick and easy it may be. Take the time to enjoy meals together as often as possible, slow down, and enjoy your food.
Get Moving: Most kids today are hooked to some sort of electronic device, or sitting in front of the television for far too many hours each day. Set up some guidelines in your home on electronic usage and begin being active together as a family. Even a daily walk or bike ride will help to get the ball rolling.
Find activities outside that everyone likes to do and make an effort to be engaged in active, not passive, recreation. Have at least one day a week where there is no electronic use at all in the home and focus on just being together as a family and being active.
If it helps, join a local YMCA or gym where you can participate in classes with your children. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to start and take every opportunity to encourage your children to play creatively outside.
Making major lifestyle changes is not easy and there will be times when you will be tempted to slip back into old habits. However, keep in mind that parents set the example for their children.
There is nothing more precious than health, and any effort spent striving towards it is time not wasted. Consider it one of the most valuable investments you can make.
-The Alternative Daily