It’s no secret that children all over the world are putting on too much weight; in the US, an astonishing 1/3 of children are overweight or obese. Being overweight as a child can lead to many diseases as an adult, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Also, overweight kids have lower self-confidence and higher risks for depression. So what can parents or societies really do to stop this childhood obesity epidemic? And how can family doctors and pediatricians help?
- The first step parents should take is to find out where your child fits on a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. Your physician should be doing this at the well-child exams, but you can easily find childhood BMI calculators online and find out yourself.
- The healthiest option is always slow and steady weight loss. One pound a week of weight loss for many children, from very conscious changes in diet and exercise routines, is appropriate.
- Another major approach involves cutting back on TV time. The American Academy of Pediatrics just published a major policy statement that “the evidence linking excessive TV viewing and obesity is persuasive“.
Pediatricians need to ask 2 questions about media use at every visit:
- How much screen time is being spent per day? And
- Is there a TV set or Internet connection in the child’s bedroom?”
- Eating a nutritious breakfast is crucial for a child’s physical growth and school performance, and that breakfast-skippers actually end up more overweight, both in childhood and later as adults.
- The most noticeable choices to reject sodas and fruit drinks. Beverages truly have almost no redeeming worth, especially for children. Any child drinking a daily soda is adding extra pounds of fat each year, and they are also increasing their risk for diabetes as well as teeth problems.
It’s essential that a family struggle to help your weighty child to lose weight. Parents also want to lead by example; it’s much inflexible for a child to lose weight if their parents are also overweight and don’t exercise. And don’t forget that any exercise is better than nothing!