Obesity is becoming a hugely serious problem around worldwide, and it is a problem that not only affects adults. The rate of childhood obesity has skyrocketed over the past few decades, which has put a growing number of children and adolescents at risk for serious health problems that were once primarily limited to adults, including heart issues, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. For this reason, it is important that every parent fully understand what childhood obesity is, the health risks associated with it and how to prevent it to give their children the best chance of living a happy and healthy life.

Childhood Obesity is Easy to Diagnose
Obesity is defined as being significantly above the normal weight for one’s age and height. Extra pounds readily show on a child’s small frame making the condition easy to identify. Although some children are naturally heavier, the truth is that no child should be fat.

  • Of course, there is a difference between being slightly overweight and being obese, which is why it’s a good idea to regularly consult a height/age chart to determine the healthy weight range for your child.
  • Should your child be at the upper end of this range or above it, it’s imperative that you begin to take steps to help them lose weight.
  • Otherwise, there’s a good chance that your child will begin to develop physical and, possibly, mental issues that could follow them throughout their life.

Childhood Obesity Leads to Lifelong Issues
Most obese children end up struggling with their weight throughout their entire life as obese children almost always turn into obese adults. This is especially true if obesity runs in the family, and children with one or two obese parents are almost guaranteed to be obese as an adult. However, even if the child eventually loses the weight later in their life, their body will still be dramatically changed due to being obese as a child.

  • Children’s bodies are constantly growing and changing, which means that the body will adjust to compensate for the extra weight it’s carrying.
  • This means that being obese as a child could permanently change the overall shape and structure of their body.
  • Furthermore, childhood obesity frequently leads to the early onset of diabetes, cardiovascular issues and other serious health problems that could dramatically affect the quality and length of the child’s life.

Obesity is also often frequently linked to low self-esteem, depression and other mental health issues, which are also likely to follow the child into adulthood unless the underlying cause of obesity is properly addressed.

Physical Activity is Important in Combating Childhood Obesity
One of the biggest reasons for the huge increase in childhood obesity is lack of exercise.

  • Children have seemingly limitless amounts of energy and should spend much of their time running and playing.
  • Unfortunately, more and more children are spending most of their time cooped up indoors in front of the television, computer or smartphone.
  • To prevent or eliminate problems with obesity, children should be encouraged to be active for at least one hour a day. Whether this means running around in the yard with their friends, going for a bike ride, swimming or doing any other physical activity, the most important thing is to ensure they are active.

Another useful option is to try to limit the amount of time the child spends being sedentary. It can be helpful to restrict the amount of time they spend on the computer, television or phone to a maximum of two hours a day. By doing so, the child will be forced to find other ways to entertain themselves, which will naturally make them more active.

Healthy Eating Habits Should Start Early
A child’s body needs proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy, which means it’s a bad idea to place a child on a weight reducing diet. Instead, it is better to strike a balance between the number of calories they take in and the number that they burn through activity.

In addition, it’s also a good idea to focus on helping the child develop healthy eating habits. One useful option is to avoid dining at fast food restaurants and keep the house free of sweets to encourage only healthy snacking.

Although childhood obesity is most definitely a serious problem, the good news is that it usually doesn’t take long for children to begin to shed the extra pounds once they begin focusing on physical activity and healthy eating.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Lia Crispell, CRNP

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