Over the years overweight and obesity rates have been on the rise among children and adults. In fact, the numbers are alarming, with almost 15 percent of children aged 10 to 17 years old are considered overweight. Currently 55 percent of adults in the United States are classified as either overweight or obese. In the simplest form obesity is a result of an imbalance between the calories a person consumes of food and the calories a person burns throughout the day. The affects of childhood obesity are more serious than some may think:
- Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults.
- Children that are overweight are at risk for adult-onset such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
- Bone and joint problems.
- Restless or disordered sleep patterns.
- Liver and gall bladder disease.
- Shortness of breath.
- At higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and abnormal glucose tolerance.
- Developing mental health problems.
The effects are more than just physical. Overweight youth often face social discrimination, such as teasing and exclusion, by their peers. Studies have also shown that overweight children are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders, like depression. Low self esteem is also a major concern of children that are overweight. Low self esteem leads to higher rates of loneliness, sadness, and nervousness. Children are more likely to smoke and drink as a result.
Combating childhood obesity needs to start at home. Children spend a considerable amount of time with the fancy technical gadgets we have all grown so accustom too. One study suggests that time spent watching TV, DVDs, videos, and movies averaged over 3 hours per day for children 10 to 17 years of age. Interestingly enough this co-insides with the increasing number of children that are overweight or obese. Adults are just as guilty… many spend all day sitting at work then come home and watch TV in efforts to relax from a hard day. To top it off the nutritional choices we make aren’t always the best. We have fast food and other high caloric foods, with low nutritional value, that complicate matters even more.
Help Children Develop Healthy Eating Habits
The best way to help children develop healthy eating habits is to practice them yourself and as a family. There is no great secret to healthy eating. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits along with whole grain products. Include low-fat milk and dairy products. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, and beans for protein. Serve reasonable sized portions, drink plenty of water, limit high sugar foods and beverages and saturated fats. Remember that by making small changes everyday you can improve the quality of life for the whole family.
Help Children Get Active
Another part of balancing calories is to get physically active and avoid too much sedentary time. Regular physical activity has many health benefits such as; helping manage weight, increases self-esteem, reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, and strengthens bones. Children should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
The biggest influence on your children’s lives are you (parents). It is up to you to make the necessary changes in your life in order to teach your children to make the same changes. Be a positive role model and avoid negative statements about food, weight, body size and shape. Offer your family healthy and nutritious meals and snacks and participate in regular physical activity together. Eating healthy and getting the right amount of exercise is a family activity which will benefit everyone. Take it one step at a time and allow enough time for the changes to become a routine, then adapt additional changes.