What You Need to Know About Childhood Obesity

Reviewed Dec 31, 2016

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Summary

You can help your obese child by:

  • Setting a good example
  • Providing a healthy lifestyle 
  • Serving nutritious meals
  • Building physical activity into each day

Obesity is rampant in the United States, even among children. As many as one child in three is overweight and one in six is obese. Overweight children weigh more than 10 percent over normal weight. Obese children are at least 20 percent over the normal weight for their age, height, and sex.

Widespread obesity is a fairly new phenomenon. Forty or more years ago, it would have been hard to find a heavy child on any playground.

What happened?

Nutritionists blame a culture that makes it easy to build poor eating habits. Some teachers blame television, computers, and other electronic media. Schools share some blame when they cut back on physical education classes and recess. Even when children have physical activity at school, it may be hard for them to find a safe place to play when they get home. Without rigorous activity, they cannot offset the calories they get from the sugary drinks, fast food, and snacks that many of them eat at home and at school.

Little by little, our way of life has changed over the last several decades. Modern conveniences brought us easier but more sedentary lives, and technology entertained us into staying glued to the tube. Today’s round-the-clock economy forces families to catch meals together when they can, and make do, when they cannot. Advertisers tempt children with sugary, high-fat foods, and parents are not always around to help their children make better choices.

Extra weight does not appear overnight. It comes on slowly, over years of bad habits. A child’s body grows rapidly, and can use many of those extra calories to build muscle and bone. Over 18 years or so, he will grow in fits and starts. But, at some point, you may notice he is getting heavier instead of taller. If that trend continues, you need to pay attention to your child’s weight. 

How do I know if my child is obese?

If you are concerned, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. He will examine her. If she has a health problem that packs on pounds, he will treat that condition. Most children who gain more weight than they should, however, do it because they consume more calories than they burn.

If you want to do a quick check for obesity on your own, you can use a body mass index (BMI) calculator especially designed for children. You can find one at  https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx.

What will that extra weight do to my child?

Weight can keep him from playing. Children need calories in order to grow, but they also need rigorous activity through play or sports. If excess weight keeps them from moving, their growth can be affected, negatively.

Weight can keep her from building friendships and self-confidence. Anything that makes your child different from her peers, including extra weight, can erode her self-esteem.

Here are some other health risks an obese child faces, in childhood and/or as an adult:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma
  • Joint problems
  • Heartburn and intestinal problems
  • Depression and other emotional problems

Some studies have shown that overweight and obese children are discriminated against in school. Not only may teachers pick on them, other children may tease them about their size or shun them. 

Overweight children are likely to grow up to be overweight adults. Obese adults are at high risk for serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, as well as emotional problems and discrimination in the workplace.

What can a parent do?

First of all, you can take a deep breath and promise yourself that you will make serious changes in your family’s lifestyle. You will need to make slow and steady changes in the way your household operates, if you are to help your overweight child. You may need to shop differently, set new mealtimes, or set ground rules that not everyone will like, at first.

The best route to follow is a positive one. Approach change as a good thing, not as punishment. In your own way, make it clear to everyone in the family that it is time to build a healthier lifestyle, one that includes nutritious meals, more activity, and more fun together.

Specifically, you need to:

  • Turn off the television and computer. Limit the number of hours your child sits in front of anything.
  • Do whatever it takes to make sure your child gets exercise every day. Take her to the park. Sign him up for karate class. Race him to the corner and back. Go for a bike ride or swim. Plan a hike. If you or other family members do these activities together, the child will enjoy them and want to do them again and again. 
  • Pack a healthy school lunch and snack. Limit salt, fat, and sugar in whatever you prepare. Keep portions a reasonable size. Add fresh vegetables, fruit, and things made from whole grains, as snacks.
  • Serve water instead of soft drinks, juice, or other sugary drinks.
  • Avoid restaurants, especially those that serve fast food. It’s easy to fall off your healthy lifestyle plan if you eat out.  
  • Try to make meals a family occasion. Do not let your child eat in front of the television or while on the phone.
  • Set a good example for your child. Follow a healthy lifestyle, eat right, and exercise regularly. 

According to psychiatrist Marsha Marcus, child development research shows that when parents adopt a healthy eating style and pattern of regular physical activity and do it with kids, kids do well.

“Don’t have all kinds of foods in your house that the kid can’t have,” she adds, “and minimum screen time is good for everyone.”

Also, do not use food as a reward or punishment. No cookies for doing a good job. If you want to reward your child for doing well, make the prize an activity she enjoys. Think exercise.

Don’t single out your obese child for special food or limits on food. Change the way everyone eats in the household, so your child will find it easy to follow the new program.

Help her set reasonable and positive goals. Think small, and praise her for every little thing she does that moves her toward a normal weight: playing outside, building friendships, making good food choices, resisting between-meal snacks.

Do not make a big deal about your child’s weight. The less you talk about it, the better, or your good efforts might backfire. If she becomes self-conscious about weight, she may eat more and play less. Use positive reinforcement to keep your child motivated.

Above all, be sensitive to your child’s feelings and emotions. Show him you care about him, no matter what he weighs or how he looks. Let her know you are proud of her, and will always love her.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

Let’s Move
www.letsmove.gov/

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

“Size-based discrimination may be hardest on children.” Monitor of Psychology, American Psychological Association. January 2004, Vol. 35, No.1.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can help your obese child by:

  • Setting a good example
  • Providing a healthy lifestyle 
  • Serving nutritious meals
  • Building physical activity into each day

Obesity is rampant in the United States, even among children. As many as one child in three is overweight and one in six is obese. Overweight children weigh more than 10 percent over normal weight. Obese children are at least 20 percent over the normal weight for their age, height, and sex.

Widespread obesity is a fairly new phenomenon. Forty or more years ago, it would have been hard to find a heavy child on any playground.

What happened?

Nutritionists blame a culture that makes it easy to build poor eating habits. Some teachers blame television, computers, and other electronic media. Schools share some blame when they cut back on physical education classes and recess. Even when children have physical activity at school, it may be hard for them to find a safe place to play when they get home. Without rigorous activity, they cannot offset the calories they get from the sugary drinks, fast food, and snacks that many of them eat at home and at school.

Little by little, our way of life has changed over the last several decades. Modern conveniences brought us easier but more sedentary lives, and technology entertained us into staying glued to the tube. Today’s round-the-clock economy forces families to catch meals together when they can, and make do, when they cannot. Advertisers tempt children with sugary, high-fat foods, and parents are not always around to help their children make better choices.

Extra weight does not appear overnight. It comes on slowly, over years of bad habits. A child’s body grows rapidly, and can use many of those extra calories to build muscle and bone. Over 18 years or so, he will grow in fits and starts. But, at some point, you may notice he is getting heavier instead of taller. If that trend continues, you need to pay attention to your child’s weight. 

How do I know if my child is obese?

If you are concerned, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. He will examine her. If she has a health problem that packs on pounds, he will treat that condition. Most children who gain more weight than they should, however, do it because they consume more calories than they burn.

If you want to do a quick check for obesity on your own, you can use a body mass index (BMI) calculator especially designed for children. You can find one at  https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx.

What will that extra weight do to my child?

Weight can keep him from playing. Children need calories in order to grow, but they also need rigorous activity through play or sports. If excess weight keeps them from moving, their growth can be affected, negatively.

Weight can keep her from building friendships and self-confidence. Anything that makes your child different from her peers, including extra weight, can erode her self-esteem.

Here are some other health risks an obese child faces, in childhood and/or as an adult:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma
  • Joint problems
  • Heartburn and intestinal problems
  • Depression and other emotional problems

Some studies have shown that overweight and obese children are discriminated against in school. Not only may teachers pick on them, other children may tease them about their size or shun them. 

Overweight children are likely to grow up to be overweight adults. Obese adults are at high risk for serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, as well as emotional problems and discrimination in the workplace.

What can a parent do?

First of all, you can take a deep breath and promise yourself that you will make serious changes in your family’s lifestyle. You will need to make slow and steady changes in the way your household operates, if you are to help your overweight child. You may need to shop differently, set new mealtimes, or set ground rules that not everyone will like, at first.

The best route to follow is a positive one. Approach change as a good thing, not as punishment. In your own way, make it clear to everyone in the family that it is time to build a healthier lifestyle, one that includes nutritious meals, more activity, and more fun together.

Specifically, you need to:

  • Turn off the television and computer. Limit the number of hours your child sits in front of anything.
  • Do whatever it takes to make sure your child gets exercise every day. Take her to the park. Sign him up for karate class. Race him to the corner and back. Go for a bike ride or swim. Plan a hike. If you or other family members do these activities together, the child will enjoy them and want to do them again and again. 
  • Pack a healthy school lunch and snack. Limit salt, fat, and sugar in whatever you prepare. Keep portions a reasonable size. Add fresh vegetables, fruit, and things made from whole grains, as snacks.
  • Serve water instead of soft drinks, juice, or other sugary drinks.
  • Avoid restaurants, especially those that serve fast food. It’s easy to fall off your healthy lifestyle plan if you eat out.  
  • Try to make meals a family occasion. Do not let your child eat in front of the television or while on the phone.
  • Set a good example for your child. Follow a healthy lifestyle, eat right, and exercise regularly. 

According to psychiatrist Marsha Marcus, child development research shows that when parents adopt a healthy eating style and pattern of regular physical activity and do it with kids, kids do well.

“Don’t have all kinds of foods in your house that the kid can’t have,” she adds, “and minimum screen time is good for everyone.”

Also, do not use food as a reward or punishment. No cookies for doing a good job. If you want to reward your child for doing well, make the prize an activity she enjoys. Think exercise.

Don’t single out your obese child for special food or limits on food. Change the way everyone eats in the household, so your child will find it easy to follow the new program.

Help her set reasonable and positive goals. Think small, and praise her for every little thing she does that moves her toward a normal weight: playing outside, building friendships, making good food choices, resisting between-meal snacks.

Do not make a big deal about your child’s weight. The less you talk about it, the better, or your good efforts might backfire. If she becomes self-conscious about weight, she may eat more and play less. Use positive reinforcement to keep your child motivated.

Above all, be sensitive to your child’s feelings and emotions. Show him you care about him, no matter what he weighs or how he looks. Let her know you are proud of her, and will always love her.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

Let’s Move
www.letsmove.gov/

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

“Size-based discrimination may be hardest on children.” Monitor of Psychology, American Psychological Association. January 2004, Vol. 35, No.1.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can help your obese child by:

  • Setting a good example
  • Providing a healthy lifestyle 
  • Serving nutritious meals
  • Building physical activity into each day

Obesity is rampant in the United States, even among children. As many as one child in three is overweight and one in six is obese. Overweight children weigh more than 10 percent over normal weight. Obese children are at least 20 percent over the normal weight for their age, height, and sex.

Widespread obesity is a fairly new phenomenon. Forty or more years ago, it would have been hard to find a heavy child on any playground.

What happened?

Nutritionists blame a culture that makes it easy to build poor eating habits. Some teachers blame television, computers, and other electronic media. Schools share some blame when they cut back on physical education classes and recess. Even when children have physical activity at school, it may be hard for them to find a safe place to play when they get home. Without rigorous activity, they cannot offset the calories they get from the sugary drinks, fast food, and snacks that many of them eat at home and at school.

Little by little, our way of life has changed over the last several decades. Modern conveniences brought us easier but more sedentary lives, and technology entertained us into staying glued to the tube. Today’s round-the-clock economy forces families to catch meals together when they can, and make do, when they cannot. Advertisers tempt children with sugary, high-fat foods, and parents are not always around to help their children make better choices.

Extra weight does not appear overnight. It comes on slowly, over years of bad habits. A child’s body grows rapidly, and can use many of those extra calories to build muscle and bone. Over 18 years or so, he will grow in fits and starts. But, at some point, you may notice he is getting heavier instead of taller. If that trend continues, you need to pay attention to your child’s weight. 

How do I know if my child is obese?

If you are concerned, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. He will examine her. If she has a health problem that packs on pounds, he will treat that condition. Most children who gain more weight than they should, however, do it because they consume more calories than they burn.

If you want to do a quick check for obesity on your own, you can use a body mass index (BMI) calculator especially designed for children. You can find one at  https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx.

What will that extra weight do to my child?

Weight can keep him from playing. Children need calories in order to grow, but they also need rigorous activity through play or sports. If excess weight keeps them from moving, their growth can be affected, negatively.

Weight can keep her from building friendships and self-confidence. Anything that makes your child different from her peers, including extra weight, can erode her self-esteem.

Here are some other health risks an obese child faces, in childhood and/or as an adult:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma
  • Joint problems
  • Heartburn and intestinal problems
  • Depression and other emotional problems

Some studies have shown that overweight and obese children are discriminated against in school. Not only may teachers pick on them, other children may tease them about their size or shun them. 

Overweight children are likely to grow up to be overweight adults. Obese adults are at high risk for serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, as well as emotional problems and discrimination in the workplace.

What can a parent do?

First of all, you can take a deep breath and promise yourself that you will make serious changes in your family’s lifestyle. You will need to make slow and steady changes in the way your household operates, if you are to help your overweight child. You may need to shop differently, set new mealtimes, or set ground rules that not everyone will like, at first.

The best route to follow is a positive one. Approach change as a good thing, not as punishment. In your own way, make it clear to everyone in the family that it is time to build a healthier lifestyle, one that includes nutritious meals, more activity, and more fun together.

Specifically, you need to:

  • Turn off the television and computer. Limit the number of hours your child sits in front of anything.
  • Do whatever it takes to make sure your child gets exercise every day. Take her to the park. Sign him up for karate class. Race him to the corner and back. Go for a bike ride or swim. Plan a hike. If you or other family members do these activities together, the child will enjoy them and want to do them again and again. 
  • Pack a healthy school lunch and snack. Limit salt, fat, and sugar in whatever you prepare. Keep portions a reasonable size. Add fresh vegetables, fruit, and things made from whole grains, as snacks.
  • Serve water instead of soft drinks, juice, or other sugary drinks.
  • Avoid restaurants, especially those that serve fast food. It’s easy to fall off your healthy lifestyle plan if you eat out.  
  • Try to make meals a family occasion. Do not let your child eat in front of the television or while on the phone.
  • Set a good example for your child. Follow a healthy lifestyle, eat right, and exercise regularly. 

According to psychiatrist Marsha Marcus, child development research shows that when parents adopt a healthy eating style and pattern of regular physical activity and do it with kids, kids do well.

“Don’t have all kinds of foods in your house that the kid can’t have,” she adds, “and minimum screen time is good for everyone.”

Also, do not use food as a reward or punishment. No cookies for doing a good job. If you want to reward your child for doing well, make the prize an activity she enjoys. Think exercise.

Don’t single out your obese child for special food or limits on food. Change the way everyone eats in the household, so your child will find it easy to follow the new program.

Help her set reasonable and positive goals. Think small, and praise her for every little thing she does that moves her toward a normal weight: playing outside, building friendships, making good food choices, resisting between-meal snacks.

Do not make a big deal about your child’s weight. The less you talk about it, the better, or your good efforts might backfire. If she becomes self-conscious about weight, she may eat more and play less. Use positive reinforcement to keep your child motivated.

Above all, be sensitive to your child’s feelings and emotions. Show him you care about him, no matter what he weighs or how he looks. Let her know you are proud of her, and will always love her.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

Let’s Move
www.letsmove.gov/

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

“Size-based discrimination may be hardest on children.” Monitor of Psychology, American Psychological Association. January 2004, Vol. 35, No.1.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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