Health & Safety
The problem of childhood obesity has grown considerably in recent years. It is one of the most easily recognizable medical conditions. However, it is difficult to treat because it involves significant lifestyle changes for the entire family.
What is obesity?
- To be considered obese a child must weigh more than 10% higher than what is recommended for their height and body type.
- Obesity usually begins around the ages of 4 or 5 and during adolescence.
- Obesity is a medical condition which can follow a child into adulthood. It can cause significant health problems now, like bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological factors. And as an adult; type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, depression and many types of cancer.
What causes obesity in children?
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of exercise
- Family history of obesity
- Medical conditions
- Stressful life events such as divorce, moves, abuse, or deaths
- Low self-esteem
How to manage obesity in children and adolescents:
- Consult your pediatrician first. Through an examination and discussion about the child’s lifestyle, the best course of action can be decided. Your pediatrician may also suggest you consult a dietician to help you map out a healthy approach towards weight loss.
- Plan meals that contain healthy nutritious foods. Avoid foods that are processed and contain large amounts of fats and sugar.
- Use divided plates and place the healthiest foods in the largest sections.
- Increase physical activity. Have the whole family engage in walks, swimming, and video games that utilize whole body movements including dance.
- Eat meals as a family at the table instead of in front of the TV.
- Do not use food as a reward.
- Pack your child’s lunch if the school meals are not in line with your healthy diet.
- Attend a support group. Check with your county’s Cooperative Extension Agency, Health Department and local hospitals to find support groups in your area.
What is the outlook?
- Obesity frequently becomes a lifelong issue.
- After losing the weight, many return to their old eating habits because they viewed weight loss as a temporary ‘diet’.
- It is vital that weight maintenance and healthy eating become a way of life.
- Parents must set the example and encourage children by emphasizing the child’s strengths and positive qualities rather than just focusing on their weight problem.