In 1971, the obesity rate among boys and girls under 19 was 5.1 percent. That means only one in twenty young people was considered obese. Furthermore, those in the small percentage category didn’t have the kind of health problems we see in our youth today. Fast forward to a study done in 2016, and the change is astounding. Obesity rates were 19.1 percent among boys and 17.8 percent among girls – almost four times the rate of just a generation ago. I’d say we have a problem on our hands. Child obesity is out of control in our world. For that matter, obesity is out of control, period. What is causing child obesity and what can we do about it?
Know Their Healthy Weight
It’s your responsibility as a parent to know what your child’s healthy weight range is. This, of course, will depend on their age, height, and build. A taller child will naturally weigh more than a smaller one of the same age. It is, therefore, imperative to understand where he/she should be, according to health parameters. Ask your doctor to give you a healthy range for each age group and start there. Remember, your child could be heavier on the scale if they are active and have a greater muscle mass. That is why it is good to not only know their weight but the BMI (body mass index) as well.
What if my child is already obese?
If your child is already considered obese by your doctor, ask what he/she recommends as far as a plan to get to a healthy weight. I also recommend that you are open with your children about health, wellness, and your own struggles (if you have them) with food and weight. The depth of this conversation will also be determined by your child’s age.
If they are under 10, you may be able to make the changes in their diet without too much push back. However, older pre-teens and teens might rebel or refuse to change their habits. In this case, you might have to bring in outside help to work with your child. Pediatric health coaches, counselors, or nutritionists will have the skills and tools to help.
Go to the Source: Food
Simply put, the problem is in what our children eat and drink every day. In other words, it’s not that occasional pizza, soda, or ice cream that wreaks havoc on a child’s weight and health, it’s what they consume all the time. For years, the medical establishment has been asking parents to help combat the obesity crisis by feeding children healthier food. But making a dent in obesity numbers is proving more complicated than many expected.
We live in a fast-food era, where the cheaper, faster, and more convenient our food is, the more appealing it is to parents and kids alike. In fact, 12.1 percent of adolescents derive more than 40 percent of their overall calories from fast food – mostly processed meat and refined carbohydrates. Unfortunately, gone are the days of frequent home-cooked meals at the dinner table. Additionally, even if families are eating at home, the food quality isn’t what it used to be.
Parents must be steadfast and firm about purchasing quality food that offers the nutrition growing kids need. This is the first step to giving them a better chance for a healthy body and weight. Something as simple as monitoring your child’s beverages and sugar intake could make a huge difference. I also recommend making a weekly meal plan to increase the chance of eating healthful meals at home, as opposed to fast food.
Are Your Children Moving Enough?
First, ask yourself this question: Do you get enough exercise for your age? I believe that active parents are far more likely to have active children. After all, if they see you getting out there and moving, they will follow in your footsteps. Monkey see monkey do…simple. Encourage them to participate in outdoor activities like swimming, sports, and riding bicycles. Even better, do these things with them! And, instead of buying one more video game, purchase equipment like a trampoline, bicycle, jump rope, or skates.
Furthermore, limit their time on the computer, gaming consoles, or other devices. These millennial staples have also played a large role in creating sedentary lifestyles among our youth. Yes, they think they need all of this technology all the time, but the truth is, they don’t. Give them options by offering outings that appeal to their need for adventure. How about an escape room adventure or a scavenger hunt through the park?
It Takes a Village
Parents aren’t the only source of the problem or the solution. Societal change also needs to happen if we want to reclaim the health of our children. Schools, media, and other organizations that have influence over our children need to focus on emphasizing and teaching health practices early on. Get involved in your child’s school and community to ensure you’re doing everything you can do.
The following infographic shows some deeper statistics that might help you to understand the issue further. Use this information to create an environment your children can become the healthiest versions of themselves.
**** This post is strictly informational and is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Women’s lifelink, it’s owners, administrators, contributors, affiliates, vendors, authors and editors do not claim that this information will diagnose, treat, or improve any condition or disease.
Infographic by University of Nevada – Reno