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Overweight Children Need Family Lifestyle Changes
The 21st century epidemic of childhood obesity is well documented and well publicized. Lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating are the main contributors to this serious problem.
Dangers of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity increases the risk for getting type two diabetes and muscle/joint problems in childhood as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer in adulthood. Social prejudice and the resulting poor self-esteem and depression are immediate problems for overweight children. Overweight children may be teased unkindly and excluded from social activities, leading to negative feelings about themselves.
A recent study from the University of Texas/Austin shows that obesity can even limit a child’s aspirations. The study found that obese girls are half as likely to attend college as their less heavy peers, pointing to long-term consequences due to the social stigma of obesity.
Setting a Positive Example
Parents face many challenges in addressing their children’s weight issues. For their efforts to succeed parents must understand that weight control is not just about dieting, it’s about lifestyle and it’s a lifelong effort. Being role models for healthy eating and physical activity is the first step for parents to help their children control their weight.
Safe Weight Control for Children
The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has suggestions for preventing and decreasing childhood obesity. In general, these ideas involve boosting the child’s self-esteem, increasing physical activity, and improving eating habits. Crash diets and diet pills can seriously impact a child’s health and growth and have no place in a safe weight control program.
Consult a medical provider before starting a weight control program for a child.
Provide opportunities for healthy eating for the whole family.
Reduce caloric intake without sacrificing needed vitamins and minerals.
Follow dietary guidelines for healthy eating.
Gradually cut down on the amount of fat and calories.
Encourage children to drink water instead of fruit juices drinks, sodas, and energy drinks, all of which contain added sugar.
Stock up on low fat and low calorie snacks.
Make sure children eat a healthy breakfast more often than not eating anything.
Eat meals together as a family and discourage eating while watching television or working on the computer.
Instead of placing a child on a restrictive diet, help to guide their food choices.
Do not give food as a reward or withhold it as punishment.
Encourage physical activity for the whole family.
Recommendations call for 60 minutes of moderate physical activity for children most days of the week.
Make physical activity part of daily family life by planning fun activities that require some form of exercise such as walking, jumping or moving in general.
Encourage children to participate in school sports.
Limit sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video games to less than two hours a day.
Provide an overweight child with acceptance and encouragement rather than ridicule and criticism. Most overweight children know they weigh too much; they don’t need to be reminded.
Instead of focusing on the child’s weight, focus on increasing healthy eating and physical activity.
Families play the major role in helping children learn the skills they need for lifelong weight control. It’s more than losing weight it’s changing family behaviors so children experience what it’s like to live a healthy lifestyle, with nutritious food and regular exercise.