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.
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
If 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.