Childhood Obesity is a Big Problem, Quite Literally
Pediatric obesity in America is a problem – a big problem. More than 3 million US children are affected by childhood obesity, a condition in which a child is significantly overweight for their age and height. according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s it! There are no other real symptoms other than your child is overweight. Those 3 million children are at higher risk for having serious and chronic health disorders like asthma, sleep apnea, bone, and joint issues, and type 2 diabetes.
“In a population-based sample of 5 – 17-year-old, almost 60% of children who were overweight had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 25% had two or more CVD risk factors” – CDC
Depression and self-esteem issues are already part of your child’s routine. Who, my child? YES! Children with obesity are way more likely to be bullied, isolated, and downright made fun of if they are a bit heavier. It’s literally like the movies.
Here’s the good news: children can lose weight (typically) faster than adults. However, obese kids turn into obese teens who turn into obese adults if you do not stop the cycle now.
Now, a message from my heart…
I wish someone would have taught me how to break the cycle, I’m thinking this as I write this article because I’m struggling in my early 20s – really struggling – to get the weight off and enjoy my life. Can you relate?
I wouldn’t say that I’m obese now, but I would say I love tacos (and two flights of stairs make me winded). I would say that I struggle to make the right decision – especially if I’m stressed. I work out 5 days a week and eat a pretty healthy diet, but man – I’m just now learning these things.
I’m just now learning that working out isn’t “just something fit people do”. I’m learning that “working out” and “eating healthy” is actually something that is normally taught. So, where did I go wrong?
I didn’t have someone who taught me to deal with my emotions and therefore, I ate. Like, a lot. If I could, I’d zoom back in time and tell myself I would.
I’d say, “you don’t need a snack after school, every day. You need to know how to deal with your emotions. You especially don’t need to “treat yourself” with a Nutterbutter because Ben (not “Benn) didn’t hug you after 5th period (like usual) and Calculus is flying over your head.”
Then again – why do I choose food as a way to comfort myself?
The (cold hard) truth is I ate my emotions because I didn’t know how to deal with them. In the “adult world,” we call this “emotional eating”. It’s a serious epidemic for children and I’ll be your “figure A”.
According to)Healthy Children, children use food for other reasons than to satisfy their hunger – they’re responding to emotions. From the beginning – getting fed a bottle because baby is irritable – have kids been learning to pacify themselves in order to reflect a sense of well-being.
Children are given cookies and cakes during holidays as a symbol of their relative’s love. Even my Aunt Gina would send us some homemade fudge when she just “wanted to say hello”. (Man, I loved that fudge!) Children are comforted by the feeling of being loved and associate food with feeling better.
Emotional eating leads me (and millions of other children) into a state of childhood obesity.
When your child uses food as a companion, the outcome is not what is expected. Overeating may catch your student in a bind – feeling guilty or ashamed for consumption – resulting in depression. As a parent, it’s good to discuss what is good and what is bad for your child. You need to reach out to your child to ask them if they eat at times that are irregular to mealtimes and snacks. Ask them why they felt a need too much at THAT given opportunity and what it is that is contributing to their overeating.
Parents should avoid rewarding children with food
It teaches that “because you did a good job, you deserve this desert”. Later in life, your child might be out celebrating with a tub of ice cream because she got a promotion. There are healthier ways to reward your children for a job well done such as a shopping trip or an adventure hike up the mountain. Don’t think that a simple, “FANTASTIC JOB, SAM” doesn’t get you far. Worlds of approval can boost self-esteem and help keep your child motivated to make correct choices.
I’ve heard it before, “Man, you’re getting a ‘little thick’! Do we need to go shopping, again?” It’s not that fun to hear and it makes children feel negative about themselves. Parental praise and positive reinforcement go a very long way. Try using phrases like, “you’re really looking healthy” or “great job packing a healthy lunch today” as those might go over better. How you speak to your child may make all the difference.
Encourage physical activity
Your child needs 60 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. Where are they receiving this? Teach your child that physical activity is good for the mind and body – no matter what stage you are in life. Play pirates outside. Join volleyball. Go for a family walk every night. Whatever it may be – stay physical!
Speak to your child, kindly about how to eat right and get exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s important for their physical and mental health. If you are having issues, please reach out to their physician as they can help. Stay involved in your child’s upbringing and help them make the correct choices.
A few helpful links below:
- Emotional Eating by Healthy Kids
- Healthy Eating Habits by the CDC
- How to Instill Healthy Eating Habits for Kids
- Work Outs for Kids