Childhood Obesity: Facts and Tips For Leading A Healthy Life
Childhood obesity is a commonly talked about issue. Just in 2020 alone, 39 million children under the age of 5 years old were considered overweight or obese. According to the CDC, obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. Overweight and obesity, especially at an early age, is linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. This can cause many issues later on in life such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, disabilities, and even some cancers. It can also increase the risk of premature death. As parents, this information can be alarming to hear, which is why it's our job to introduce behaviors that can help our children grow to their healthiest potential.
What Causes Childhood Obesity?
Although children have smaller stomachs than adults, they have higher caloric needs per pound. Have you ever heard someone say, "give him more food, he's a growing boy?" Children are hungrier than adults because they are growing at a greater rate and that's okay. However, if children do not use the extra stored calories for energy, it can result in obesity. That's not to say that obesity cannot come from other things such as learned behaviors, lifestyle, genetics, and other medical reasons.
Poor Eating Habits
A huge factor in childhood obesity is poor eating habits. These habits are often passed down from their parents, sometimes without them realizing. Having sweets or soft drinks in the house can be nice in small doses, but should never be used as a "reward" for good behavior or as something to cheer up bad behavior. Associating unhealthy foods with feelings of "comfort," can be a really hard habit to break. As children get older, these traits can be passed down to their own children. Eating too much of the "wrong" things can take a toll on your child's health, too. It can be easy to satiate children's hunger with fast food, because of the convenience of having a meal already prepared. If you do stop for fast food, try not to make it a regular habit, and opt for a kids meal with fruit or vegetables.
Children with obesity in their genetics can also be at a greater risk for weight gain. Although there are not too many studies linking full genetic predisposition to obesity, if a child has an obese parent or has come from a line of unhealthy eating patterns, it can be extremely hard to break those habits. Prader Willi syndrome is something that develops at birth and it affects the body. It is caused by missing genes on chromosome 15 which each parent passes down a copy of. This gene causes children to have poor muscle tone and to feel hungry all the time leading to obesity.
Underlying Medical Reasons
Weight gain can also be attributed to underlying health reasons, not poor habits. An underactive thyroid gland can cause obesity since the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. Cushing's syndrome is a rare disorder that causes steroid hormones to over produce. Additionally, certain medicines that treat epilepsy and even antidepressants can contribute to weight gain. If you are worried about your child's weight gain, make an appointment with Ascend Medical's Pediatric Primary Care to discuss with your child's provider.
Childhood Obesity Prevention
While childhood obesity is on the rise, there are a few ways you can help prevent it. The key is to promote a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise, eating well, and making regular checkups with your provider.
Get Out And Exercise
One of the most important things you can do to prevent childhood obesity is to get regular exercise. Sedentary lifestyles can be very hard to break once established, so get your children moving. A great way to start is by getting outside and playing. Whether throwing a ball in the backyard, playing tag, swimming or running, you are helping introduce more physical activity to aid in the prevention of weight gain. Indoor activities can include playing hide and seek or even interactive video games can help burn calories. Children should try to do something physical every day. Encourage them to walk, use the stairs, or clean their rooms. This can move into more laborious activities like running, climbing, dancing, etc.
Encouraging Healthy Habits
The foods children eat can also prevent childhood obesity. Feeding children should follow the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children. Children 2-6 years old should consume:
- 2 servings of dairy
- 2 servings of meat and fruit
- 3 servings of vegetables
- 6 servings of whole grains every day
Limit fats and sweets, especially eaten in front of the television as it is hard to pay attention to hunger cues.
Intuitive eating focuses on trusting satiety cues to guide how much they eat. Practicing this healthy relationship with food can make a lasting impact on how your children eat throughout their lives. Additionally, studies have shown that lack of sleep can increase the risk of obesity. Make sure your child is getting a good night's rest!
Make sure your child is receiving regular checkups to monitor their health with Ascend Medical's Pediatric Primary Care. Yearly appointments help us keep track of your child's height and weight and calculate their BMI. If there is a significant rise in BMI, we can work with you to help get your child back on the path toward healthier living.
Reach out to your Ascend Medical provider and discuss our pediatric services today.Schedule Your Appointment Now