Childhood obesity is an increasing problem. Parents need to understand the causes, the risks, prevention and management of obesity in their children. According to an article on the website, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, between 16 and 33% of children and adolescents are obese. MSNBC news reported in 2010 that 4% of American children are morbidly obese. The percentage is steadily increasing. The percentage of children and teens considered overweight has doubled since the 1970’s. A child is considered obese if his weight is 10% higher than what is recommended for his height and body type. The causes are varied, the risks significant, and prevention or management a necessity.
Causes of Obesity in Children
The causes of obesity in children can include genetic, behavioral, and lifestyle factors. Obesity becomes a factor when people eat more calories than their bodies can burn. According to experts on the website, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology, if one parent is obese, there is a 50% chance that his children will also become obese. If both parents are obese, the risk for obesity in their children rises to 80%.
Most cases of childhood obesity are due to family history, poor eating or nutritional habits, binging, lack of exercise, low self esteem, problems with family or friends, medical problems and certain types of medication, and emotional issues or depression.
Risks and Complications of Obesity among Children
The risks for anyone who is obese include the potential for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, difficulty breathing with ease, and difficulty sleeping. Obese children face an additional risk of emotional problems and low self esteem.
According to authorities on the website, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology, emotional problems and problems with self image can result in anxiety, depression and even obsessive compulsive disorders, a disorder characterized by persistent obsessions or compulsions that interfere with functioning on a daily basis.
Managing and Preventing Obesity in Children
According to the nutritional experts on the website, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in order for parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight and avoid the risk of obesity, they must balance the calories their children consume through food and beverages with the number of calories they burn through normal physical activity and growth. The experts also advise that parents should not put their children on a diet without first consulting with a doctor.
Parents should strive to help their children develop healthy eating habits. They should also reduce calorie rich temptations which can sabotage healthy eating. Parents can help their children learn healthy eating practices by providing fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. They should provide their children with lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, and beans for protein. Parents should provide low-fat milk and dairy products and encourage their children to drink plenty of water rather than sugar-sweetened beverages. Parents should also limit their children’s intake of sugar and saturated fat. Even when providing healthy, nutritious food, parents should monitor their children’s portions to ensure that their portions are reasonably sized.
Parents shouldn’t completely deprive their children of tasty treats. Even though most things can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing calorie-rich temptations of high-fat, high-sugar, or salty snacks can promote healthy eating habits. Instead, parents should only allow their children to eat such temptations sometimes, so that they truly will be treats for them. As often as possible, parents should encourage their children to substitute lower calories treats such as apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries or grapes.
According to an abstract (Vol. 295, No.13, 4/5/06) by Cynthia Ogden, PhD, of The Journal of the American Medical Association, “Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily.” Parents should reduce their children’s sedentary time. Children will be more motivated to be physically active if their parents are also physically active. Moderate intensity physical activity includes such things as brisk walking, jumping rope, playing running games such as tag, dancing, playing soccer or basketball, doing gymnastics, and swimming.
In conclusion, there are risks to childhood obesity, but the problem can be prevented and managed. The Related Articles section includes links to three different articles that give additional information about physical activity for children, dressing to look slimmer, and dealing with bullies. It is not uncommon for obese children to be bullied by their peers.