Childhood Obesity – A Family Issue

Obesity in Families – Save Your Children

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and other sources, childhood obesity has reached alarming levels in the United States.

“Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.”

“In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.”


This has led to concerns regarding the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems associated with obesity. Sadly, this trend is the all-too-predictable outcome of the diet of a large number of American kids. While you may have seen news stories trumpeting a drop in childhood obesity in the past decade, some of these stories were based on misleading data from a single study, and focused only on a small group of children 2 to 5 years old. The bigger picture is much more alarming.

Obesity among children and adolescents in the USAChildhood Obesity is Increasing In Developed Nations

The same challenges face other parts of the developed world. For example, Canadian childhood obesity has reached alarming levels, growing from 15% in 1978 to 31% in 2012.  Many of these children will carry excess weight into adulthood, and often continue to gain weight as adults. Currently, 59% of adult Canadians are either overweight or obese. Current trends indicate that up to 70% of Canadian adults aged 40 years will be either overweight or obese by 2040.

Consequences of Obesity in Children

Unhealthy weight is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other health problems associated with obesity.

Sadly, this trend is the all-too-predictable outcome of the diet of a large number of kids. When they aren’t drinking sugar-loaded soda drinks, they are eating fast food meals that are heavy on the fat, cholesterol, and calories and light on fiber, vitamins, and nutrients.

“The food industry and the processed foods have kind of created this environment where it’s so easy to get calories.”
– Dr. Karl Kabasele

Given current patterns, it is reasonable to be alarmed that today’s overweight kids and the prevalence of obesity in families can lead to serious health problems in coming years. If you want to help curb or control obesity in your family and possibly save your children’s health, keep the following in mind.

Families Impact Their Children’s Weight in Significant Ways

A 2004 study published by the Journal of Pediatrics found that the biggest risk factor that predicted overweight in children was parents who were overweight. The remaining risk factors were low parent concerns about their child’s thinness, persistent child tantrums over food, and less sleep time in childhood.

Watch Your Kids’ Diet

A key step in ensuring that your kids eat healthy is to pay attention to their diet. Monitor what they are eating and make sure it limits processed/packaged food. Introduce more fruits and vegetables into their diet. Keep serving sizes sensible. Encourage them to adopt different eating rituals. For example, instead of snacking on candy and soda pop, pack apples, nuts, and bottled water. Help your whole family discover healthy snacks. You’ll find more ideas for healthy eating in our weight loss tips section.

Work with your children to change and broaden their taste in food. Demonstrate to them that fresh fruits and vegetables make for great meals. Kids copy what they see. Be a healthier role model when it comes to food choices, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your kids will copy you.

Be On the Lookout for Emotional Eating Patterns

A recent three year study of about 500 European school children indicated that children who respond to stress with emotional eating are more likely to gain body fat.

“We see the relation mainly in children with a high sweet tooth consumption. So those who take a lot of sweet foods … these children we see the stress increased adiposity.”
– Natalie Michels of the public health department at Ghent University in Belgium

Talk to your kids often and see if they eat when they feel stressed, sad, or bored. If you see emotional or ‘comfort’ eating patterns, break the pattern up by taking them to the park, playing with them, or engaging them in conversation. Try to prevent them from establishing an association between eating and a particular emotional state they’re in. Teach them that eating is not a coping mechanism.

Cut Down on TV Time

Increase the rate at which your kids burn calories by establishing reasonable TV schedules for your household. Consider banning eating with the TV on, since many TV commercials are designed to be junk food triggers. Diet is a much bigger factor in obesity than activity, despite what the food industry would have you believe, but getting a moderate amount of healthy exercise still has significant benefits.

Budget Time For Family Activity Hour

Make it a point to engage in activities with your kids. Maybe you can schedule your kids to visit the neighbourhood park every other day or at least twice a week. Maybe you can walk around the block as a family after dinner every other day. Regardless of what you do, pair physical activity with time together as a family. The lifestyle changes you make now can stay with your kids for life, so make sure the habits you instill are healthy ones.

Small Changes To Your Kids’ Daily Rituals Lead To Better Health

Fight Childhood Obesity With Family ActivityIf you notice that your kids aren’t exercising or spend too much time sitting, introduce a few changes to their rituals that get them to move more often. Perhaps you can enrol them in a martial arts or swimming class, or get them involved in a sport.

By being proactive in your kids’ daily activities and nutrition, you can make a big difference in how they deal with or avoid childhood obesity. Paying closer attention to your kids’ eating habits and activities can go a long way in helping them live healthier and more active lives – and will probably boost your health as well as you become more mindful of setting a good example.

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16 Responses to Childhood Obesity – A Family Issue

  1. Michael June 9, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    I really enjoyed this article. Child obesity has become an epidemic. Parents need to take more responsibilty when it comes to their childrens eating habits. The point you make of not eating when in front of the television is one that I had not considered before. Really makes sense when you think of how many junk food commercials are on these days.

  2. oraclemay June 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    I live in South Africa and the obesity problem here is enormous. I see a lot of children who are growing up with this problem and when you look at the parents it becomes obvious that it stems from the family. I don’t know how we can combat this problem which seems to be growing in proportion every day. I would suggest that educational solutions should be introduced at school level. Perhaps one can reach the parents through their children.

    • DrBruce June 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      I’m certainly a believer in education. That’s why there are over seventy posts (to date!) on this site on how to help yourself get healthy. I think you’re on the right track when you imply that helping the children may help the parents too, if we can find ways to do that.

  3. mrsbrodt June 10, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    Thanks for the great tips on a subject that is really important. One of my biggest challenges is that even if I watch and keep an eye on what my children eat in my home, they still spend a large amount of time outside the home. I really think that there should be more emphasis on learning about food and proper nutrition at an early age. This is a skill set that once you develop it, it will help to keep you healthy for your whole life.

    • DrBruce June 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children were taught more about nutrition? Unfortunately, even some of the existing government-sponsored nutrition education initiatives may not have completely accurate/up to date information. Our knowledge of “food as a cure” is changing rapidly, even though there are many institutions that through complacency or vested interest don’t necessarily want us to be well-informed. If you as a parent teach your children to eat real, unprocessed food whenever possible, that’s a great start. As you say, it’s a skill set that will help keep you healthy for a lifetime. You may want to look for chef Jamie Oliver’s Youtube videos on teaching your children to cook. He has an important message.

  4. Peter-gay June 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Your health is your wealth; I must say that the health of children is solely dependent on their guardians whether they are parents, family members or whoever holds the role of guardians in our child’s life. We are living in a fast world, fast cars, fast food, and fast life and the fast is not exhausted. Everybody is moving so fast to be wealthy and as a result, they become poor in health. Children are the future and if our children are not healthy, then tomorrow the world will be more stressed to take care of a large society of obese young children who will be tomorrow obese adults.

    • DrBruce June 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

      You’re so right, Peter. Childhood health issues (especially preventable ones) can only lead to even more health problems as those children mature.

    • Bambi July 11, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      You are so right, Peter, because parents are in controlled of what their kids eat, and the kids’ health depends on the parents’ actions. When I was younger my parents only filled the house with junk food, so it was either eat it or starve. I really think this a main reason to child obesity worldwide.

  5. Mike Copper June 27, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    Childhood obesity is a matter of huge concern. Parents need to set an example for their kids by staying fit. Kids normally copy their parents habit of eating and if parents are not eating healthy then it’s a problem. Try to cook healthy and encourage your child for healthy living.

  6. rubydust July 11, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    It’s alarming to read the statistics on how childhood obesity is increasing at such a horrific rate. I have teenage children and I am concerned about it.

    When they were younger, I had full control over their diet. But now they are away from the home for longer periods of time, I have to trust that the choices they are making are healthy ones.

    The best we can do as parents is try to be good role models, and educate our children about healthy food choices and the consequences of bad eating habits.

  7. SPWhitlow July 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    It’s crazy how much childhood obesity has risen throughout the years. My dad always said that the kids back when he was in school that he thought were fat, are nowhere near fat to today’s standards. I think parents need to get this under control as soon as they can, and set a healthy example for their kids. Constantly eating “junk” food and not eating anything in balance and moderation is just a recipe for disaster for themselves, and their growing kids.

  8. FreiFreiFrei December 8, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    The fact is that children subconsciously and consciously try to emulate their parents and older siblings. If you live with a child and are in a role model position, it’s your responsibilty to that child to try to lose the weight.

    What’s good though, is that it’s easier for children to lose weight because they only eat what you let them, and on average they get more physical activity than adults.

  9. Jmichelle December 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Childhood Obesity is a problem that definitely needs to be discussed. I feel as if not many people take it as a particularly serious situation. Obesity is not only dangerous to children in the fact that it opens doors for other diseases and difficulties, but it is also relevant to the act of bullying and low self esteem expressed in children as they grow older and become conscious of their bodies and hormones.

    As children they follow a specific set of guidelines given to them by their sole providers. Basically, whatever habits are given to them when they are young, will remain with them as they learn to make their own decisions. If a child is subject to healthy eating and exercise, this is most likely the lifestyle they will follow when they get older. However, if a child has no guidelines or boundaries, they are not aware of the limits or of what is considered “healthy” therefore, they will grow up believing there are no limits to what they can and cannot eat.

  10. GemmaRowlands August 7, 2015 at 12:42 am #

    This article is great, as it shows just how much families in general can struggle with the issue of obesity – which is a massive issue in the modern world. I think that it is vital that children learn all about what it means to be healthy as soon as they possibly can, as this means that they have the best possible chance of being able to live full and healthy lives when they are adults. You should always try to make small changes to improve the lives of your children, and by doing this you will find that their weight remains healthy, and they will never have the struggle of being obese to deal with.

    • DrBruce August 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

      You’re right, Gemma. It is so important to educate your children and set them up for success. And yes, small changes really add up over time.

  11. cnunamaker1 August 13, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    I actually really liked this article I think it offers a lot of educational value on childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is definitely something on the rise, the more educated people are on the topic the closer we can get to putting the issue to a stop. Parents are the ones that are responsible to feeding their children, so the more they learn the better. Children can’t help themselves they have to be guided in the right direction.

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