The incidence of childhood obesity is rapidly rising throughout the United States and the rest of the world. The number of children who are overweight has nearly doubled in the last two to three decades; currently one in five children are overweight. The increase is in both children and adolescents, and in all age, race and gender groups.
Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most excess weight is caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little. If children consume more calories than they expend through exercise and normal physical development, they gain weight. On average, children are spending more time in front of the television, playing video games, and online than they are spending exercising or doing outdoor physical activities.
Overweight children are at risk for many health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other serious conditions. Childhood obesity also increases the likelihood of a child having low self-esteem that stems from being rejected by peers, teased, or bullied.
It is never too late to prevent or take control of childhood obesity. Teaching healthy behaviors at a young age is important since change becomes more difficult with age. Parents have the ability to make the biggest impact on their children’s diet and exercise habits since they buy and cook the food.
Several preventative measures can be taken starting at an early age.
- When buying groceries choose fruits and vegetables over foods high in sugar and fat. Always have healthy snacks available.
- Limit sweetened beverages. These drinks provide little nutritional value in exchange for their high calories.
- Sit down together for family meals. Do not eat in front of the television.
- Emphasize activity.
One of the best strategies to combat excess weight in your children is to improve the diet and exercise levels of your entire family. This helps protect the health of your children now and in the future. Since losing weight is so difficult, it is very important that parents support their child while he or she makes difficult lifestyle changes.