Today, childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels. Experts estimate that around 20% of kids are obese. Plus, 2/3 of these obese children will end up becoming overweight adults. In the US alone it is thought that between 5-25% of children and teenagers are obese. But the prevalence of obesity in our youth also varies from ethnic group to ethnic group. It is estimated that 5-7% of white and black children are obese, compared with 12% of Hispanic boys and 19% of Hispanic girls.
- Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. Generally, this is marked as a boy's body weight being 25% body fat or more, or a girl's body fat being 32% or more.
- Childhood obesity puts your child at risk for a number of problems, such as Type II diabetes and weakened joints. It also raises their risk for emotional problems, such as depression and social anxiety.
- Help prevent childhood obesity by helping your child maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. At the same time, watch for the warning signs of an eating disorder.
What is Childhood Obesity?
How is childhood obesity defined?
It is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity is normally present in a childhood when the total body weight is more than 25% fat in boys and 32% fat in girls. More often than not, childhood obesity is defined as a weight per height ratio which is in excess of 120% of their ideal weight. Skin fold measurements may be used to determine this. A trained technician can obtain skin fold measurements relatively easily in either the school or clinical setting. Optimal skin folds for a boy should be between 10-25mm and 16-30mm for girls. Alternatively, a doctor may calculate your child's BMI and use that to determine what their weight status is.
Complications Arising From Childhood Obesity
Unfortunately, childhood obesity can present many problems for a child. Not only are they at an increased risk of being obese during adulthood, but it can also lead to a number of pediatric conditions. These include Type II diabetes mellitus, the increased risk of them suffering from coronary heart disease, as well as increased pressure being placed on weight bearing joints. An obese child will suffer from low self-esteem, which will affect their relationships with their peers.
As with adult obesity, childhood obesity has multiple causes. These causes center around an imbalance between the energy a child takes in and the energy that they expend. Childhood obesity results from an interaction between nutritional, psychological, familial, and physiological conditions.
The important thing if you have an obese child is to seek help. Do not feel ashamed; you are not alone. Many parents in today's world are facing the same issue and health care providers can help. Talk to your doctor and consult with a dietician or nutritionist to get and stay on the path to lifetime health for your child.
How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
Preventing childhood obesity is critical to protecting your child's health. There are a number of ways that you can help your child maintain a healthy weight. Let's take a look at some of them.
Encourage your child to exercise. Exercise of any kind is going to help ward off obesity. Walking, running, and sports are all great ways for your child to exercise. As long as they're spending at least 30 minutes a day doing some sort of medium-to-high intensity exercise, they're in good shape. Many kids have a lot of energy, so this shouldn't be a problem. The exercise they do in P.E. class and during recess will help, too. Your child should, however, still be exercising beyond P.E. class and recess.
Help your child maintain a healthy diet. Every child loves junk food, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with a child having a soda, some McDonalds, or some candy. What's important is moderation. Your child should be eating fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods in addition to junk food. They should avoid overeating junk food. Teach your child the importance of balance in their diet, so that they're able to have a healthy life as an adult.
Watch for eating disorders. This goes both ways. A child who becomes too concerned about their weight may develop anorexia or bulimia. A child who is going through a lot of stress or similar issues may develop binge eating disorder, which can lead to obesity. Help your child understand that it's important to maintain a healthy weight, but that they shouldn't obsess over it. Avoiding being underweight is just as important as avoiding obesity. Being underweight can raise your child's risk of developing other complications. What your child should value is being a healthy weight, not being as skinny as they can be. If you notice that your child is beginning to obsess over their weight, or if you notice any warning signs of an eating disorder, intervene as soon as possible. On the opposite end, if you notice that your child is using food as a coping mechanism, intervene and help them find healthier ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
Do not take the content of this article as professional medical advice. It's important to exercise due diligence when obtaining relevant information in matters pertaining to your health. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any medical decisions.