By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue that has many health and social consequences, which often continue into adulthood. Children who are overweight tend to grow up into adults who are overweight. They, therefore, have a higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke, type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, and high blood pressure.
Obesity is extreme body fat. With children and adolescents, it is important to consider both weight and body composition. Overweight is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles as well.
Sedentary behavior including high frequency of television viewing, computer usage, and other similar activities has contributed to obesity in children.
Teaching your kids to be extremely active from a young age is important since change becomes more difficult with age. Losing weight for children may be difficult. Hence, it is recommended that they do enough to at least not gain weight while they grow. With age they would get taller and with sustained weight, they would also get thinner.
Recommendations for maintaining weight should include a threefold approach that encourages children to:
- eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- make changes to eating habits which means reducing intake of high-caloric and fatty foods
- increase physical activity
The importance of continuing these lifestyle changes well past the initial treatment period should be emphasized to the entire family. The healthiest way to change weight is gradually.
Being obese as a child can also cause psychological distress. Other kids most often than not would tease an obese child. This can severely affect the child's confidence and self-esteem and can lead to isolation and depression. As parents, you must always encourage your child to be positive and focus on weight loss. Small and achievable weight loss goals should be set to avoid discouragement and to allow for the normal growth process.
Involvement of the entire family is a motivating factor. Weight control programs that involve both parents and the child have shown more improvement in long-term effectiveness compared to those that involve the child alone. This way the child does not feel singled out. Also, it is not particularly encouraging for the children when they see the entire family feasting on ice cream sundaes, while they are expected to suck on fruit pops. Besides, parents who enjoy a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables set a good example for their children. As children grow older they tend to stick to the eating pattern that has been established at home.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.