How Parents canChange the Pattern of Childhood Obesity by Terri Richards, RN, BSN
IntroductionJust “google” childhood obesity and 1.3 million results pop up. According to the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent (over 9 million)children ages 6-19 yearsold are overweight or obese—a number that has tripled since 1980.(1) Youfa Wang, anassistant professor in the Bloomberg Schools Department of International Health states,"If the rate of obesity and overweight continues at this pace, by 2015, 75 percent ofadults and nearly 24 percent of U.S. children and adolescents will be overweight orobese."(2) This is a staggering statistic. We already know that children who areoverweight face serious physical and emotional issues. How can we prevent thisdoomsday prediction for our future generation? The information in this eBook willguide you and your family to living a more healthy lifestyle and avoid becoming astatistic.
There is one way to change the pattern of childhood obesity that stands out among allthe rest. It is a lifestyle change. Sound simple? It is not. It is a multifaceted ideal thatincludes: healthy eating, exercise, psychological support and consistency. It requires thefamily to change habits, sometimes very deep-seated habits. Parent modeling is the onlyway the lifestyle change can happen. It has to be a family decision or it will not work.We all know that healthy eating is important. Choosing healthy foods is not easy. But itis possible with the proper information and the inner strength to stick to it. You, as theparent, are the gatekeeper of your food pantry. No one is making you buy that 2 literbottle of soda. Whether you buy it because of habit, emotional reasons or price, none ofthem are important enough to risk your familys health. There are healthy alternatives.First, you have to learn how to read nutrition labels. It is not hard. You can do this! Hereis a great site to help you. Search for “Buy Better Groceries” on google. Click on the siteunder Washington Post. Another tip is not to take the children grocery shopping, it canlead to impulse buying and non-healthy choices. If you have to take them, be firm thatyou are only buying from the list. Maybe let them pick out some fruit. Remember youare the gatekeeper!Second, make a menu each week using healthy choices and shop for your food ahead oftime. Stick to your menu! Let your child help choose a healthy recipe you both findonline. There are tons! It doesnt have to be tofu, there are very tasty dishes out there thatare healthy. You can even let older children help prepare the meal or younger children,with your assistance. Dont be discouraged if your child does not like certain foods atfirst. In many cases, it can take several times for them to eat something new. If no one inthe family likes it, then perhaps you need a new recipe. Make sure your child eatsbreakfast everyday. Skipping breakfast can leave your child hungry, tired, and lookingfor less healthy foods later in the day.(3) Monitoring healthy lunches while at school canbe challenging but not impossible. Packing your child his/her lunch and monitoring whatthey eat for school lunch will help. At my sons school, we pay for his lunch online andare able to monitor his choices because the school posts each item and the breakdown ofthe cost. He also knows he can only have pizza once a week. The rest of the week he hasto make healthy choices that we have discussed with him.Next, start to replace those high fat, high sugar food and drink items with healthierchoices. For example, instead of soda, choose real fruit juices and buy low-fat or 2%milk. Frozen juices are cheaper than prepackaged ones. Cut way back on cookies, candy,chips and non-healthy snack foods. You dont have to overly restrict sweets or treats.Eating fast food once in awhile is okay too. When you do, help your child to makehealthy choices. Perhaps ordering the chocolate milk instead of the soda and applesinstead of french fries. Please praise them when they do. Children love to be praised bytheir parents and it reinforces that behavior.
Most importantly, do not use food as a punishment or reward. Children can quickly startto associate food with things other than hunger. This is a behavior that is very difficult toreverse once it is learned. As I am sure many adults can relate to. On a more seriousnote, it can also lead to serious disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Teaching yourchild about proper nutrition will last them a lifetime. It is what they will teach theirchildren, your grandchildren and so on. Make some goals for you and your family toachieve. For example, in one month we will completely change the way we shop andchoose healthy foods. Make the goals realistic and achievable. Weight loss should comegradually. Never start your child on a diet without first consulting with your familyphysician.Eating healthy must always accompany physical activity in order to lose weight. Gettingyour child to change their behavior to become more active can be difficult. However,there are ways to accomplish this. Younger children are easier to engage in activity ifprompted by the parent. However, older children today spend way too much timewatching tv, playing video games, texting and talking on the phone. This sedentarybehavior must be limited to two hours per day. The National Institute of Diabetes andDigestive and Kidney Disease(NIDDK) has a great website with information on how tohelp your overweight child. It is recommended that kids need about 60 minutes ofphysical activity a day, but this does not have to happen all at once. Several short 10 oreven 5 minute periods of activity throughout the day are just as good. If your childrenare not used to being active, encourage them to start with what they can do and build upto 60 minutes a day.(4) Some of the activities can include: bike riding, swimming, rollerskating, bouncing a ball, dancing, climbing on the jungle gym, playing catch, hopscotchor jumping rope. There are many more physical activities. Out of ideas? There arehundreds of ideas on the internet.Taking the time to do any of these activities with your child will show them that you arealso committed to living a healthy lifestyle. It is also time you can spend communicatingwith your child and offering love and support. Sometimes we get so busy with our dailylives that we often dont spend enough time with our children. This is a great way tospend time with them and get your exercise. It also reduces stress. Thinking aboutbuying your child a video game system? Choosing a system that is interactive andincludes baseball, skateboarding, snowboarding or other physical sports can get you andyour child off the couch. Encourage them to get up and move around when watching tvor playing video games. Discourage snacking or at the very least, provide a healthysnack when watching tv. Be creative in finding physical activity to do as a family. Forteens, shopping at the mall is always fun. Think about all the calories you will burnwalking around!