About childhood obesity
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic. And, it has significantly impacted the physical and psychological health of our nation’s children. Research shows that overweight and obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood. They also have a much higher risk of developing diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease at a younger age.
Experts at the World Health Organization estimate that there are 43 million overweight children who are under the age of 5. By 2020, more than 60 percent of diseases worldwide will be directly associated with obesity.
Childhood obesity facts
Here are some noteworthy childhood obesity facts that have been highlighted in a scientific review published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal
- Childhood obesity is associated with an increased risk of premature death and disability in adulthood.
- Obese children often consume larger food portions, increased fat intake and fewer fruits and vegetables from an early age.
- Obese children spend fewer hours physically active than normal-weight children. And they spend more time watching TV, sitting at their computers or playing video games.
- A large number of children who are obese have obese parents.
- When food is used as a reward starting early in life, children tend to derive pleasure from it. This increases the risk of childhood obesity.
- For obese children, food tends to be a source of comfort.
- Many obese children lie about their food consumption and even hoard snack foods in their rooms.
- Obese children seem to eat more in the evening and at night, and less in the morning.
- These children seem to eat out of the home more often than normal-weight children.
- They also seem to have a preference for sweet foods like cookies, cake, ice cream and sweetened beverages.
Causes of childhood obesity
1. Portion Sizes
It might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s important to understand that portion size directly affects the amount of food consumed in one sitting. That means that you’re more likely to eat more food than you really need if the portion in front of you is bigger.
2. School Lunch
Are you letting the food industry feed your kids? If so, you may notice that the choices available to your kids at school aren’t exactly what you’d prefer for them to be eating during lunch. Yes, schools have to hit certain nutrition marks. But they are also allowed to use foods with artificial flavors and coloring, food additives, preservatives and emulsifiers.
3. Consumption of Sugary and Ultra-Processed Foods
One of the leading causes of obesity is the sugary and processed foods making up many children’s diets. Research shows that children today are eating more high-calorie, nutrient deficient foods and they are not consuming foods with vitamins, minerals, and other healthy micronutrients.
4. The absence of Healthy Fats
You may be surprised to learn that researchers have found that a diet rich in healthy fats (avocado, butter, wild caught salmon, yogurt, coconut oil) is associated with a lower risk of developing obesity. For so many years, the public was told that fats cause weight gain. But recent studies indicate that the opposite is actually true, in the case of healthy fats. The consumption of healthy fats has an inverse relationship with metabolic risk factors and obesity.
5. Lack of Physical Activity
A large population of children and adolescents aren’t meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. The recommendation is at least one hour of physical activity every day and more if possible.
6. Stress (On Children and Parents)
Children with obesity face psychological issues like stress, anxiety and even depression. Researchers show that many obese children experience separation anxiety when they are separated from their parents and they feel anxiety about their weight and food habits. Adolescents become stressed and anxious about their weight and resort to crash dieting, which leads to them eating even more. Sometimes, obese children and adolescents can be bullied or ridiculed because of their weight, even by their friends and parents. This leads to even more feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and worthlessness. These feelings lead to children resorting to food for comfort and inevitably, even more, weight gain.
7 solutions for childhood obesity
1. Start with a Healthy Breakfast
Did you know that skipping breakfast can actually lead to weight gain? Studies indicate that regular breakfast consumption will reduce the risk of childhood obesity and improve a child’s physical activity behaviors. Children need breakfast to fuel their bodies and give them energy throughout the day. Without a proper breakfast, children and adolescents will feel fatigued. They will be less likely to engage in physical activity that burns calories. Plus, when they do finally eat a full meal, they will be so hungry that they choose larger portions and consume more calories.
A healthy breakfast contains protein, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Avoid serving children foods that are processed and contain added sugars, like cereals marketed to children.
2. Pack School Lunches
To fight childhood obesity and even improve your child’s focus and test scores, opt for a brown bag lunch. Plan, shop for and prepare meals with your son or daughter. Let your child become part of the decision making. Allow her to choose her own healthy foods to incorporate into her school lunches. This will get her excited about eating healthy foods she already loves. She may be willing to try some new foods, too.
A 2009 study published in Preventing Chronic Disease found that adolescents who usually brought their lunch from home 5 days per week “ate fast food on fewer occasions, consumed fewer servings of soda, fried potatoes and high-sugar foods, and ate more fruits and vegetables compared with adolescents who never brought their lunch to school.”
3. Get Involved at School
You stay on top of what your child is learning at school. You ask him what he learned that day, help him with his homework and communicate with his teacher about his progress. Doesn’t it make sense to ask your child about what he ate that day? What food was offered and did he like it? Did it make him feel energetic afterward or groggy?
Your child spends a majority of his day at school and there, he is learning behaviors, including how and what to eat. Your child receives mixed signals if you’re practicing healthy eating at home, but processed foods are served every day at school. Until healthy school lunches are the norm, you need to be an advocate for your child. Get involved at school and fight for healthy lunches. Plus, school is a great place for your child to learn about healthy foods, what they can do for his body and mind, and why certain foods make you feel good while others make you feel lousy. Studies show that in the fight against childhood obesity, too, is the most feasible and effective approach. Teachers and parents are the best role models. Together, they can more easily guide the children to become healthier.
4. Cook Meals at Home
Eating more meals away from home puts children at a greater risk of becoming obese. This is especially true if they are eating high-calorie fast or processed foods that parents turn to on busy days. Research shows that families spend about 40 percent of their food dollars on food away from home. Children are served portions that are too large and too high in calories at these establishments, often To help your child lose or maintain his weight, prepare most meals at home. Also, eat together as a family as often as possible. Cook meals for your family using high protein foods, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory foods like leafy green vegetables and fruits packed with antioxidants.
5. Limit TV Time
When your child is in front of the TV, he’s probably sitting or lying down, doing very little or no physical activity. Sometimes, parents let their children watch TV for hours without prompting them to go outside, run around, play a game or get creative. Not only does too much TV time mean too little exercise and too much time being sedentary, it also means that your child is being exposed to advertisements that are promoting the exact foods that are contributing to our childhood obesity epidemic.
Children are exposed to high volumes of television advertising for unhealthy foods with little nutritional value and too many calories. Researchers found that among the food commercials, 54–87 percent were for unhealthy foods. Also, most of these commercials involved persuasive marketing techniques. For example, using popular promotional characters that appeal to children.
6. Make Time for Physical Activity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 should engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise every day and encourages young people to exercise regularly to decrease the likelihood of developing childhood obesity, reduce stress and anxiety levels, promote mental health, and build strong bones and muscles. These benefits of exercise will boost your child’s self esteem and help him to reach his weight loss goals. Young people should spend one or more hours running around, playing sports and engaging in other types of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities every day. Here are some great ways that your child can become more active:
- playing sports like soccer, basketball and tennis
- brisk walking
- bike riding
- practicing gymnastics
- practicing karate
- doing yoga
- doing push-ups and pull-ups
- climbing a tree
- playing on a jungle gym
7. Be Supportive and Show by Example
Obese children and adolescents experience stress and anxiety over their weight and how their parents, siblings, and peers perceive them. Addressing the psychological issues related to obesity is just as important as changing a child’s diet. Never put your child down about his or her weight. Instead, explain your concerns and present a game plan. If you plan to feed your child healthier foods and make time for physical activity, you should do it too! Sit down to eat a healthy meal together. Shop for food and look through recipe books or blogs together. Engage in physical activity together by hiking, running, going to the beach and swimming or bike-riding. It’s also a good idea to practice daily stress relievers, like yoga and meditation.
If you are having trouble dealing with your child’s anxiety about his or her weight, seek the help of a professional. A services health coach or therapist can be extremely beneficial.
Final Thoughts on Childhood Obesity
- Childhood obesity has become a worldwide epidemic and experts at the World Health Organization estimate that there are 43 million overweight children who are under the age of 5 and by 2020 more than 60 percent of diseases developed worldwide will be directly associated with obesity..
- There are many causes of childhood obesity. These include large portion sizes, unhealthy school lunches, consumption of sugary and processed foods, the absence of healthy fats, a lack of physical activity and stress on both children and parents.
- Luckily, there are natural solutions for fighting childhood obesity. Cooking and preparing meals at home are the best ways to treat childhood obesity. It’s extremely important to encourage physical exercise, get involved in school and serve as a support system for your child.
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