Defining Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is caused by various genetic, behavioral and environmental factors. Exposure to unhealthy foods and eating patterns, increase portion size, physical inactivity, socioeconomic status, medications, and other factors contribute to this growing national epidemic.
Overweight and obesity often start during the primary school years. This is a major concern because many overweight children continue to be overweight as adults. The main influence on the diet and lifestyle of primary school children is their parents. Childhood obesity prevention techniques in the home can have a dramatic effect.
The CDC defines overweight as “having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water” or a combination of these. Obesity is “having excess body fat.”
How to Asses if Your Child is Overweight or Obese?
Body mass index (BMI) calculation is one of the tools used to assess whether a person is underweight, healthy weight or overweight. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. BMI percentile calculator for child and teen is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is important that a child’s BMI is compared against his or her age and gender centile charts. The BMI centile range includes.
- Under 3rd percentile – underweight
- 3rd to 85th percentile – healthy range
- 85th to 95th percentile – overweight
- 95th percentile and above – obese
What Causes Childhood Obesity?
Childhood obesity causes vary in multiple factors. These include genetics, such as being a certain ethnicity or strong family history of weight-related issues. Others include:
- Parental obesity prior to and during pregnancy
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Premature birth (less than 37 weeks)
- Being large at birth
- Early introduction to solid foods
- Increased screen time
- Drinking larger amounts of sugary drinks
- Eating sugary processed foods
- Limited physical activity
- Being rewarded with sweet rewards
What are the Risks of Childhood Obesity?
According to the AAP, there are many effects of childhood obesity and that includes high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and gall bladder disease.
Aside from medical risks, obese children may suffer from poor self-esteem if they’re teased, excluded from games, or bullied by other children because of overweight.
How to Deal With Childhood Obesity?
- Helping your child combat obesity is a challenging task for any parent. But it’s one you need to address early before habit set in and your child begins to suffer physical and psychological effects. With a number of resources available to help you navigate this challenge, you can start helping your child shed those extra pounds for a healthier future.
Be a Role Model
Children do as they see, not as you say. It’s important to evaluate your own healthy living before trying to instill the right habits in your kids. Assess your own diet by looking at what’s in the fridge and what snacks you keep on hand.
Take the time to exercise. Doing so will give your kids a roadmap for adulthood as they begin to see exercise as a fun part of daily family life. If a child is already overweight, involve the whole family in a fitness routine rather than singling out one child. After all, everyone needs an hour of physical activity a day, regardless of size or weight.
- Try to avoid feeding your child with large portions. A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.
Eat Healthy meals
- Children, just like adults, should aim to eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They’re a great source of fiber and vitamins and minerals. Discourage your child from having sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals, and sugar-sweetened soft and fizzy drinks.
Limit Screen Time
- With all the new gadgets and gizmos available, it’s easy to sit for hours on end and stare at a screen. Set a time limit of 30 to 50 minutes for the day, and encourage your kids to get outside or play with other toys.
Talk to your kids about the importance of eating well and being active. Be a role model by eating well, exercising regularly, and building healthy habits into your own daily life. Make it a family affair that will become second nature for everyone.
If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with childhood obesity, you are not alone. Dr. Garcia and Dr. Caceres at Pediatric Associates California can help you and your child overcome this the right way.
You can reach them at (559) 728-4133 at their Fresno office and at (559) 673-6085 at their Madera office.