Read a newspaper, watch the nightly news, or go to your physician, and you’ll hear the same thing: Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions with far-reaching consequences. From diabetes to future heart disease, childhood obesity puts children in harm’s way on a daily basis.
With the right tools, parents can give their children the upper hand against this big issue. Here are a few items to put in your health toolbox.
Tool #1: Understanding
No, childhood obesity isn’t about kids walking around with leftover baby fat. It’s not about toddlers with those wonderfully cute, chunky legs. Rather, childhood obesity is when a child is greatly overweight for his or her age. The causes of obesity in children are the same as in adults. Most children who battle obesity live in an environment where overeating is made easy and exercise is rarely encouraged.
Tool #2: Perspective
Believe it or not, today’s kid’s meal was at one point an adult portion. That means when you stop at a fast food restaurant, your child is being served an adult-sized meal. With this in mind, it’s no wonder our children are growing larger than ever before.
What has happened over the years to bring about this change? There are as many theories as there are fast food restaurants, but it’s likely due to people simply wanting more. Americans have ready access to foods of all sorts and have grown accustomed to thinking more is better. With this mentality, many feel there is no reason to not eat as much as you can. Unfortunately, many children are learning the hard way that there are a number of reasons to not eat as much as possible, as they suffer from diseases once confined to adults.
Tool #3: Sweat
Only two decades ago, seeing children play outside was the norm. It didn’t matter if it was hot, cold, rainy, or snowy, kids were outside playing. They rode their bikes, played tag, and sprinted through the sprinklers. When kids played, they weren’t out to exercise. They just wanted to have fun! Being able to stay fit and thin was an added perk that most kids didn’t even acknowledge.
Today’s parents can learn a lot from the days of old by building a barrier against obesity with a solid wall of fun and sweat. Parents should also remember that exercise for kids doesn’t mean going to the gym. It’s unstructured play, and it’s something most kids love when given the opportunity.
Tool #4: Family Focus
Have a child on the verge of obesity? Putting your child on a special diet and forcing him or her to perform activities no one else in the family has to do is an exercise in futility. If you want to see change in one member of the family, the entire family has to be involved. That means from dietary changes to regular exercise, mom, dad, sisters, and brothers should all be involved.
Tool #5: Perseverance
There is no quick-fix to being obese. Losing weight requires patience, dedication, and being content with small changes over a long period of time. Parents should note and celebrate small victories in their children to encourage them to continue newly established healthy lifestyles.
Once it’s time to celebrate, choose wisely. While you may want to indulge your child with a three-scoop sundae, shoot for something a little more moderate, like a single-scoop cone. It’ll be more than enough to fulfill your child’s sweet tooth without leading down the path to overeating.
Chill Out, Mom and Dad
If you have kids, you’ve probably heard this sentiment a few times. Now, it seems your kids are on to something. According to research from the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, stressed out parents can actually prevent obese children from being able to shed pounds and make healthy lifestyle changes.
When parents deal with stressful situations, they often block other areas of their lives out. When this occurs, they may forget to help their children continue in their obesity-fighting lifestyles or may stress out the child, causing depression and unhealthy behaviors that enable the child to continue in unhealthy activities that result in obesity.
So remember-if you’re trying to help your child stay thin for the long run, relax. It’ll make everyone feel better.
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