If you watch the Netflix show “Stranger Things”, you may have noticed that all the children are slim and trim. In fact, in the early 1980s when the show is set, the obesity rate for children was just about 5-6%, meaning that only 1 out of every 20 children had a weight issue. Today, nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese.
Alzein Pediatrics is here to help explain why that happened, why we should be very concerned, and how to make sure your child is maintaining a healthy weight.
Why Has Childhood Obesity Increased?
So what’s changed in the last 35 years? First, we’ve become addicted to processed, prepared, packaged and fast foods, which are all very high in calories and very low in nutrients, which means our children’s bodies crave more and more to be satisfied.
Juice, sodas and other sugary drinks, consumed by children at higher rates than ever, are full of empty calories. Portion sizes have dramatically increased, meaning we eat more simply because we’re given more. With the advent of video games and smartphones, our children move substantially less than previous generations.
This is a serious problem for our children’s futures. Obese children have a 75-88% chance of becoming obese adults, as early weight gain “reprograms” the body to be accustomed to being heavier and makes it extremely difficult to lose the weight and to keep it off.
Kids suffering from childhood obesity are more likely to have:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Type II diabetes
• Some types of cancer
• Bone and joint fractures and pain with accelerated osteoarthritis
• Asthma and breathing issues
• Liver and kidney disease
• Sleep problems
• Premature sexual maturity, with girls experiencing irregular periods and subsequent fertility issues
• Behavior and learning dysfunctions
• Depression and low self-esteem
• Substance abuse
Most parents have a difficult time seeing their child as overweight or obese. That’s why it’s vital to be open to this subject at your child’s well visits. When our medical professionals measure your child’s height and weight, we’ll calculate their BMI (body mass index) and begin a discussion about healthy eating and physical activity. You can also calculate your child’s BMI at home by clicking here.
To help your child better manage their weight, make it a family “adventure,” changing everyone’s menu and activity levels.
Here are some ways to help manage childhood obesity:
• Make an appointment with Alzein Pediatrics to screen out any medical or genetic factors and to get guidance about how to start a pediatric weight loss program
• Reduce the time spent watching TV and playing electronic games
• Make sure your child is getting a bare minimum of 60 minutes of exercise throughout the day by riding a bike, swimming or walking to a friend’s house.
• Avoid food that is packaged, processed, boxed, canned or “out of a window” (fast food)
• Enjoy fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean proteins like fish and chicken.
• Shrink portion sizes by following American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines
• Replace sweetened beverages of any kind with water or unflavored teas.
• Don’t use food or screen time as a reward.
It’s very important to take TVs out of bedrooms. Get your child involved in a physical activity they enjoy and can perform without embarrassment. Invite every family member to find one new healthy recipe each week and cook it together.
The good news is that by modeling lively exercise and a fresh menu as a parent, your whole family will be healthier, stronger and happier!