Childhood obesity is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 17 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, up from 5 percent in 1974. What's more, the American Heart Association finds that for the first time, kids' health is worse than their parents' health. To curb childhood obesity, parents need to take a multistep approach to keeping their kids healthy and active.
Admit the Problem
Childhood Obesity conducted a national study of parents with an obese child, wherein 78 percent of these parents considered their child to be at a normal weight. This misconception is important, as it influences eating behavior in the home. The only way to know for sure whether your child has a weight problem is to consult his pediatrician, who can identify abnormal changes or diagnose possible conditions that may influence weight gain.
Make a Plan
Once your child's pediatrician confirms that your child is overweight, work together to create a reasonable plan of action. First, determine how much food your child should be eating and what kinds of foods you need to reduce or eliminate. The doctor may refer you to a nutritionist to help put together a healthy meal plan. Next, put together a list of fun physical activities for your child to participate in. To combat childhood obesity, experts suggest children get a minimum of one hour of physical activity each day.
Build a Support System
Life as an overweight child can be lonely, especially if no one else in the household is struggling with weight. To make it easier for your child to make healthier choices, incorporate everyone in the home into the new lifestyle. Only prepare healthy, fresh meals, and get everyone off the couch with family sports or playtime. Inform every adult in your child's life of this new lifestyle, including clergy, coaches, teachers and babysitters. This ensures your child has a consistent level of support at all times to keep up the good work. "With this sort of team approach, the child can navigate healthy behaviors in lots of different environments," says Dr. Christina Economos, co-founder of ChildhoodObesity180 at Tufts University.
Weight is a sensitive topic, especially for kids. It is important to approach the topic carefully. Inform your child of the doctor's findings, and talk about how the whole family is going to be making healthier choices. Rather than being restrictive, create a positive atmosphere of encouragement by asking your child what kinds of healthy foods he likes or physical activities he enjoys. If he feels your suggestions are coming from a place of love and support, he's more likely to want to adopt these healthier behaviors both in and out of the home.
All of these measures are great ways to help slow the rise in childhood obesity. Making healthier decisions as a family makes it easier on kids and teens. Incorporate healthier practices slowly and consistently to make them more effective.
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