Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has been steadily on the rise among children aged 6 to 19. In children between the ages of 2 and 5, about 14% of them are now classified as being overweight. Approximately 20% of kids aged 6 to 11 are overweight and 19% of kids between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight. All of these figures are up significantly from statistics that were obtained in the early 1970s, with all of them more than doubling in a relatively short amount of time.
Understanding the Risk Factors
In order to fully understand how childhood obesity has become such an epidemic in the United States, it is necessary to be aware of the risk factors that contribute to the continually increasing weight of children.
- Physical activity (or the lack of it) – Kids these days very rarely participate in any type of physical activity. Most of them spend their free time playing video games, watching television, and hanging out with their friends participating only in sedentary activities.
- Sleep – Many children do not get enough sleep each night, and this contributes to weight gain, as lack of sleep increases a person’s risk for becoming obese.
- Nutrition – This is probably the biggest factor to the rising rates of childhood obesity. Kids routinely consume oversized portions of food, indulge too often in high fat, high calorie junk foods, and drink lots of soda and juices.
- Genetics – If a child has overweight parents, he or she is far more likely to have a weight problem at some point. Often times, genetic weight problems develop during childhood.
With the exception of genetics, the other risk factors for childhood obesity can be easily controlled with lifestyle modifications. Though it is often easier said than done, changes can be made to positively impact your children, thereby reducing their chances of becoming obese, or allowing them to lose weight in a healthy manner.
Weight Loss for Kids
If your child is overweight, the first thing you should do is talk to your pediatrician about the options that are healthiest and best for your child. You might also want to consult with a nutritionist who specializes in working with children to obtain some advice about how to get your child to eat healthier foods.
As a parent, you should encourage your child in a positive, helpful way to become more active and to lead a healthier life. One of the best ways to do this is to lead by example. If your child sees you and your spouse eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, he or she will be much more likely to emulate your example.
Some of the positive steps you can take to help your child lose weight include the following:
- Restrict your child’s television and computer time each day to no more than about two hours.
- Let your child help you pick out groceries, focusing on healthy items that you will use to make nutritious recipes for meals and snacks.
- Encourage physical activity of about one hour per day, four to five days each week.
- Keep healthy, convenient snacks on hand.
Following these basic guidelines, as well as obtaining professional advice from your pediatrician and/or nutritionist will help you to get your child’s weight down to a healthier range.
By Andrew V.V.