Being clinically diagnosed as overweight or obese as a child can have a lasting impact on their physical and emotional well-being, well into adulthood.
Like adults, the extra weight can put children at risk for developing serious health problems including asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. And like adults, the extra weight may prevent children from participating in a variety of activities, develop a negative body image, low self-esteem, depression, and an unhealthy relationship with food.
The challenge for parents lies in understanding how their children have become obese or overweight in the first place, and providing a proper nutrition for their children’s health and growth.
The first step is to determine if your child is, indeed, overweight or obese. These discussions usually begin with a routine visit to your child’s doctor, where they regularly measure height and weight in conjunction with your child’s age. Children grow at different rates at different times. And body fat differs between the genders, as well as age. The US Center for Disease Control created the Body Mass Index-for-Age, a guide for children and teens that includes gender and age in its calculations for healthy weight ranges.
The second step involves an analysis not only of your child’s behavior, but also your family behaviors. Oftentimes, it is recommended to make lifestyle changes as such that your child will grow into the current weight as he or she gets taller.
- types of groceries in the house
- frequency eating outside of the home
- food choice
- consuming larger portions than necessary
- types of snacks and the frequency of snacking
- amount of screen time
- amount of physical activity
Some of these behaviors are dictated by the schools your child is in, such as no snacking allowed, the availability of fresh, healthy school lunches, and the reduction or elimination of physical education activities. As a parent you can take control of things that happen at home.
- It can begin with providing healthier options, and slowly reducing the amount of unhealthy options.
- It can be a simple as shifting to increased participation in physical activities: a family walk after dinner, deciding sign up for a new sport, or playing active indoor games.
- It can be setting regular family meal times and focusing on portion sizes.
- It can be starting a family discussion on what is healthy, including knowing when your body is full, and offering non-food rewards for certain behaviors.
- And, depending on your child’s age, it can also include engaging them in the meal creation process.
Contact the experts at the Metabolic Medial Centers to determine the best weight management plan for you and your family.