The days of playing kickball until the streetlights come on are in danger of being extinct, if they aren’t outdated already. With one in three children now considered to be overweight or obese, moms are finding that they have to force their children to get out and play or risk the effects that obesity causes. We offer a closer look at childhood obesity and how it can affect your children.
A big factor in child obesity is the amount of time spent watching TV with little to no exercise. Figure in the additional time spent playing with electronic devices like video games, cell phones, and tablets, and the concern grows bigger. It’s because of this lack of exercise that the kids who spend too much time watching TV or using electronic devices become overweight.
It also doesn’t help that we’ve become busier as parents, too. With a million things to do, cooking a nutritious meal from scratch and sitting down to eat it seems unlikely. So we tend to buy whatever’s on the way home or can be made in a microwave in an effort to save time. We also have less time to watch what our kids are eating, especially at school, where candy and soda are common snacks.
Child obesity has dangerous side effects for kids’ health: diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all now a possibility. There are also cardiovascular risk factors in childhood that can result in heart failure, stroke, and heart disease as adults if the problem is not corrected.
Finally, there are emotional effects of childhood obesity, such as being teased by other children and being susceptible to depression and substance abuse. The social stigma of being overweight can create pressure to “fit in” and may trigger eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
The good news is that childhood obesity is curable. You can teach your children habits now that they can carry with them into adulthood for a life of healthy living. Don’t use food as a reward, since that can result in a habit of emotional eating where kids eat to feel something, instead of eating to stay healthy. While you don’t have to be so strict as to completely cut out sweets or junk food, you do want to teach your kids moderation and portion control. This is also why you want to break the “clean your plate” mentality that former generations of kids grew up hearing.
If you feel your child’s weight is beyond your fixing, you can ask your health care provider to assess the situation. They know how to assess your child’s eating and activity behaviors to make healthy suggestions and possibly screen for any problems that are a result of obesity. From here, they may schedule you to visit a nutritionist or dietitian for further instruction, or help enroll your child in a weight management program.
Childhood obesity may be a concern for this generation of children, but by taking steps to address it now, your child can grow up having a healthy relationship with food. And since families tend to share the same exercise and eating habits making healthy lifestyle choices won’t just affect your child, but the rest of your family too. Eating well and being active are qualities you definitely want to make sure run in your family.