Peek across the playground and you will notice that many children these days are obese. The CDC recently stated that “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years.” Currently, over 18% of children and 21% of adolescents are obese. Unfortunately, obesity in children raises many of the same risks that it does for adults, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or prediabetes, sleep apnea, and back and joint problems. This month for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we focus on helping kids develop healthy habits of their own.
It’s understandable that parents may feel confused about how to approach a child about obesity. Instead of creating conflict and feelings of frustration or disappointment, many weight problems can be approached and resolved using these techniques:
- Set the example. The phrase “Monkey see, monkey do” applies to how kids approach diet and exercise. Children who see parents making healthy food choices and making time for fitness are more likely to follow those actions themselves. Setting the example is essential when helping kids change habits and behaviors.
- Change how the family eats. If you want to help your kids stop eating poorly, fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy alternatives. In most cases (with exception of teens who earn their own money), children are limited to what you bring home from the grocery store. Also, serving the main course in smaller portions and filling the plate with vegetables can help children learn portion control.
- Encourage family fitness time. Instead of watching a movie after dinner as a family, take a walk, play a game of pick-up, or ride bikes together. Most kids will love the extra attention they get without the distractions of home.
- Address stressors that cause overeating. Sometimes obesity can be related to outside factors that need to be addressed before children can lose weight. Helping your child resolve stress or emotional issues can help prevent them from using food as a comfort item.
- Reduce screen time. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV, and a total of 5 to 7 hours a day on screen time. Those numbers are far greater than the recommended limits of 1-2 hours a day for children over 2 (and no screen time for younger children). Replace screen time with more active play for a more natural way to help kids lose weight.
Weight loss, especially for children and adolescents, is most effective (and long lasting) when parents and educators help kids create healthy habits instead of enforcing restrictions. The good news is that many kids are able to lose weight naturally by making small changes and taking on better habits.
For parents who are also trying to lose weight, our center offers multiple weight loss options in Louisiana and Mississippi. Learn more about our MyWeight Nutrition and Wellness Counseling, minimally invasive weight loss surgery procedures, or incisionless weight loss procedures like the ORBERA balloon or ReShape balloon. Please, attend a free weight loss surgery seminar or speak to one of our patient advocates by calling 877-691-3001.