Childhood Obesity Prevention

Every parent wants to see their children live a good and happy life, but it comes with its challenges. Obesity in the United States and across the globe has been climbing and is projected to continue to do so. And while many parents don’t like it, they may have adolescents who struggle with being overweight or obese. Children do not have control over what is bought and given to them to eat.

The prevalence of obesity in the pediatric age group in the United States is almost at 19%.[1] Most cases are occurring due to excess food intake over an extended period. Others are associated with hormonal, monogenic, or syndromic disorders in obese children.

So it is up to the adults to learn how to best instill healthy lifestyle and diet habits in children. The earlier that a child who struggles with their weight is treated, the better their outcome will be and the greater the chance of reducing childhood overweight rates.

What Causes Obesity in Children?

Just as with adults, there are a variety of factors that can cause childhood obesity. Some of these causes include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Lack of good food options
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Too much screen time
  • Certain medications

When a child is born into a family that has a history of being overweight or obese it is possible that they will have an inherited risk of being overweight. However, in many cases, it is possible that they only really struggle due to the learned habits that lead to the issue. Socioeconomic factors also play an important role in kids’ overweight problem.

This is why it is important that the parents and any adults in that child’s life do what they can to ensure healthy habits and food options are made available and emphasized.

Related: Are you eating the right calories?

Risks of Obesity

Obesity has several health-related risks for both children and adults such as:

Healthy Habits to Help Avoid Childhood Obesity

If you have a child who does in fact struggle with their weight, it is important that you treat them kindly and with love. Studies have shown that when a child is made to feel bad about being overweight and it is pointed out, they are prone to struggling with it even further. Any child, whether overweight or at an ideal weight, deserves to be treated just the same and it is not recommended that they are alienated.
healthy eating habits prevent childhood obesity

1. Prepare Balanced Meals with Sensible Portions

Some good ways to help them are to in fact gradually introduce them to healthier habits and foods in a manner that are fun for them. By adding these healthy alternatives to previously learned behaviors in a way that relates to their desires and passions, you help them feel good about doing such healthy activities.

When you have somebody commit an act at a time that their mood is boosted and they feel good, their brain connects that act with the emotion of being happy. This works just the same with negative emotions which is why you want to avoid making them feel bad or looked down on.

2. Get the Family Involved

Children and teenagers are greatly influenced by their surroundings and the people around them. So aside from getting them into healthy habits, it is recommended that these habits be led by example. Activities, meals, and plans such as reducing time watching TV are much more useful when followed by all members of the family. When a child sees that they are part of group activity and not be expected to behave differently as though they have a problem, they will feel much more excited and like it is just a standard activity.

So in other words, don’t make being healthy a chore so much as just a way for the whole family to be more active.

– Some fun family activities that you can do include:

  • Cooking togetherYou can assign tasks to each family member and make it a fun time for everyone. You could, for example, put on a song they like, let them play with the food, have a race to see who finishes their task first.
  • Have Social Events and Get Active: Invite your friends or friends of theirs over to enjoy some healthy foods and activities such as baseball, swimming, or a hike.
  • Get the Family Involved in Sports: Get them involved in martial arts, little league, or any activity that they prove to become passionate about and support them. Maybe watch them take a dance class and cheer them on. This will help them to feel that you care about them doing what they are passionate about as well as get them in the habit of being active.

– Invest Your Time as Parents

An excellent way to encourage a happy and healthy child, in general, is to invest your time. This does not promote just healthy eating and lifestyle habits alone but in fact, a way to potentially boost their performance academically and socially.

Read More: 15 Ways to Get Your Family to Eat Healthily

3. Limit Screen Time

With screens everywhere, it is hard to manage your child’s screen time. It is best to limit your kid’s screen time to an hour or so a day depending on their age. Make sure it is high-quality programming.

4. Weight Loss Camps

One option and an excellent resource for parents is to send their teenagers to a weight loss camp.

Real-Life Example

A single mother struggled to get her son to behave in school and he frequently fought her authority and acted out at home. She, in fact, had several children and so giving him the attention he needed was proven difficult. His acting out was in fact because he was not being given care and felt ignored.

She then began to show more attention by placing him in martial arts classes. Just within months of his taking martial arts lessons and her sitting in to watch, the son began to behave much differently. His grades went up and he became an honor student, he was more cooperative at home, and he also lost weight.

But what’s great about this example, is that the entire experience was about him being able to do an activity that he is passionate about. The weight loss was merely an added benefit that wasn’t talked about or a predetermined factor in making the decision.

As he grew into his later teenage years, the family decided to all go to the gym together and eat healthier. Again, he lost even more weight and even got compliments about his level of fitness from physical education instructors and fellow students.

What is more important about this example, however, is the fact that all of the activities were done for fun, and they in fact set in place great habits which that child stuck with far into his adulthood. He’d, in fact, keep a regular gym membership, cook healthy meals for himself, and always study new facts about health and nutrition. But at the same time, he knew how to have fun with it and not be too strict or hard on himself.

It’s Never Too Late to Shape a Better Future

Remember that being more active and eating well is a lifestyle choice and not a temporary fix. A steady intake of healthy foods, water, and vitamins paired with regular exercise are great habits that should be followed all throughout childhood and adulthood. Many who are not taught these healthy habits do fail diets and bounce back to what is comfortable, causing yo-yo dieting and other health-related issues.

It’s a Lifestyle Not a Short-Term Fix!

No matter what state your family is in, it is never too late to develop new habits and have a new life. The body has an amazing way of renewing itself as dead cells are replaced with new ones. By taking on a new outlook on life and living a healthier, more active lifestyle, one can, in fact, begin to feel, look, and physically become more youthful.