If you are working in a kindergarten or an elementary school, you know that these days children are getting heavier, compared to 10 or 15 years ago. Childhood obesity is a problem in developed and industrialized countries. Parents from third world countries are not too worried about their children becoming overweight. In fact, in these countries, parents often have to face the opposite situation, where they have to struggle to get enough food.
In the United States, people have become accustomed of eating whatever they want. In addition, unlike their ancestors or parents from underdeveloped regions in the world, most American parents are no longer managing their families in the traditional way. Sixty percent of adults and fifteen percent of children in US are overweight. They tend to accumulate fat by working behind a desk or sitting in front of the television.
You may be surprised to hear that, although the consequences of childhood obesity are multiple and complex, the remedy is relatively simple.
As more and more children becoming obese these days, doctors and other health professionals have to deal with more health problems. Obesity is not a condition limited to excessive weight, one of the worst effects on children is low self-esteem. Childhood obesity may lead to some serious diseases (such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease) and can have a lasting impact.
Only a doctor can make a formal diagnosis of obesity, by using a weight and height chart. These tools allow doctors to have a clear indication on:
• Child’s weight relative to age and height.
• The type of necessary interventions to improve children’s overall health.
Although in some areas, child obesity is touted as a big problem, it may not be a concern on other areas.
One major cause of childhood obesity is changes in lifestyle. Thirty years ago, when only a small proportion of the children were qualified as obese, there were no 800 cable TV channels to choose from. Video games are boring and low-tech, to say the least, most people do not even know what a computer is. Children do not dwell for hours with indoor entertainment equipments, so they play outside more often. They did not even realize that it was an active lifestyle, it’s just their way of life. Today, many children are glued to the screens most of the time, while, some children can’t play outside because their parents forbid them, due to some reasons, such as heavy traffic and high crime rate.
Thirty years ago, many families have at least one parent who stayed at home full time. Mothers don’t work outside their home until now, because, many families rely on two full-time salary just to make their ends meet. Many families are relying on fast foods during workdays and convenience foods during weekends, both of which are often high in fat and contribute to obesity.
Families are no longer having dinner together. People have forgotten how they should eat for the sake of nutrition and food has become a part of the entertainment (such as, eating snacks in front of the TV) or a contest to see how fast a person can complete a breakfast so they can arrive at the office on time. People no longer know what is a healthy and balanced diet, they have forgotten how to slow down when eating and fail to evaluate their diet.
In addition to a change on how families work, many children in schools have more choices. In many school cafeterias, finding a healthy dish can be difficult, especially if the school allows fast-food vendors to open a stall inside the school. Vending machines have become commonplace and parents often don’t give a second thought on what their children are buying from those machines. Unfortunately, instead of apples and oranges, these machines are full with soda and candy, even kids who want to get a healthy snack, often find themselves out of luck. Kids are kids, they simply can’t resist the system and are continuously exposed to junk food during their entire lives.
Human being – both adults and children – is not programmed to survive long with a diet rich in fat and refined carbohydrates. Cavemen did not eat french fries. Pilgrims did not go to Drive-Thru each night. Native Americans didn’t make shakes. Obviously, these people were not obese.
Parents of obese children should make a concerted effort to improve children’s weight and health condition; because many children may fail to follow a strict diet plan, if parents can’t guide them. Just cutting fat content in your family diet is a big step in solving obesity problem. Increased physical activity is another important step. Exercise helps to shed weight quickly and also helps to maintain an ideal body weight. In addition, daily exercises have been shown to improve mental state and reduce depression and anxiety.
Of course, you don’t need to tell your obese children to follow a marathon training program. Just let them play outside and allow them to play gaming console occasionally. Turn off the TV during the weekends to ensure that your children stay active, be prepared for the inevitable conflict and also be prepared to hold your ground.
Your first instinct when faced with a child obesity crisis might be to immediately limit his food intake, drag him out for a walk, and record his weight every day. However, improving children’s health should be done through partnership instead of exercising a total control. Allow your child to share his thoughts to allow you make the right choices without sacrificing his emotional needs.
If losing weight is so easy, everyone would be slim and healthy right now. Often, the effort to change your family’s lifestyle takes time. It also takes time to start reaping the benefits of healthy living. Because this is a gradual and permanent change, it is not unusual for boredom and frustration to set in. during the adjustment period, you’re your child’s number one role model, so you need to remind him about the benefits of ideal body weight and always be patient with him.
Sometimes, parents think their children will eventually regain weight. Your child may reach a plateau, when they don’t lose weight for weeks. At these times, everyone needs to remain calm and persist in using new, healthy routine. Frustration is normal and despite setbacks, don’t return to old habits. If you suspect that your child will benefit from some professional interventions, for example, a therapist or a support group, do not hesitate to ask for help. Weight is an emotional issue, which can cause a permanent scar on a person’s self-esteem. Improving his physical health is a good goal, but remember to take care of his emotional health along the way.
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