If you have a child with obesity, life can be tough. On one hand, you may receive shame and blame from other parents who assume that it’s your fault for over-feeding your child. On the other hand, you may be at a loss at trying to get your child to lose weight. Hopefully, this article can help.
How common is childhood obesity?
If your family deals with childhood obesity, you are not alone. According to a CDC study, obesity prevalence among children ages six to 11 was 18.4%. Meanwhile, obesity prevalence for youth aged 12-19 was 20.6%.
Obesity prevalence was also higher in poorer households and there were significance differences between ethnic backgrounds.
However, any child of any family or cultural background has the potential to become obese.
Can childhood obesity be due to illness?
Most of the time, childhood obesity is due to inactivity and poor diet. Hormonal imbalances and metabolic problems are only responsible for about 1% of childhood obesity cases.
However, childhood obesity can lead to more serious health complications, such as:
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiovascular conditions
- Diabetes, insulin resistance, or problems with glucose tolerance
- Breathing issues like asthma and sleep apnea
- Poor mental health, anxiety, and depression
Developing a more serious condition will require more serious medical help, which can get stressful and expensive for a growing family. To save money, see if there is a community health center in your area. You can also access more affordable prescription medications (ADVAIR DISKUS® for asthma, for example) through a pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy. You can access affordable medications from Canadian Pharmacies & approved International pharmacies and fulfillment centers.
The best thing to do, however, is to prevent weight issues from progressing into more severe problems.
How can I encourage healthy habits in my child?
Children aren’t always easy to parent! They may frustratingly picky eaters, or they may prefer video games over playing sports. The key is to encourage healthy behaviors and remove temptations for unhealthy ones. The American Heart Association has the following suggestions:
- Make getting healthier a family endeavor, not just a rule for your kid. Your child may feel less singled out if they perceive health as a family effort. Being in an environment where everyone is working towards being healthier is also more supportive. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk: adopt healthier behaviors yourself so your kids can follow in your footsteps.
- Maintain a healthy environment. This means keeping unhealthy treats out of sight and out of reach, or not buying unhealthy food in the first place. Seeing tempting, unhealthy foods on a regular basis can spark cravings. You can also create a household that is more conducive to healthy behavior; this may include being available to drive your kids to parks, sports fields, and activities.
- Offer praise and encouragement, not shame. Weight and body issues can be extremely stressful for children, and children who are frequently criticized by their parents about their body can harbor resentment. This may cause your relationship to strain over time. Instead of shaming, give praise when your kid makes a healthy decision.
- Focus on adding benefits, not taking away rewards. Many people view dieting as a “taking-away” of things they enjoy. Instead of adopting this negative mindset, focus on the things you’ll gain by adopting a healthier diet. Explore healthy yet tasty recipes with your family, and introduce your children to new and exciting ingredients.
Encouraging Physical Activity
These same principles can be applied to physical activity. When it comes to being active, focus on fun and avoid treating exercise as a chore. Physical activity is also a wonderful opportunity for family members to spend time with and bond with children.
As most children have a natural sense of curiosity, exposing them to different, lesser-known sports or simply taking them outdoors on hikes and adventures can also make physical activity more interesting.
Diets and Supplements
If a weight loss program seems potentially beneficial, talk to your pediatrician first. They can tell you about its risks and benefits, and whether it will even work for your individual child. Children are different, and what works for one child may do nothing to – or even harm – another.
A Word About Mental Health
Body issues are stressful for everyone, and children who are developing a sense of identity are no exception. Kids may be bullied and excluded by their peers due to the way they look.
Sometimes, troubled kids can look to food as a comfort. Some young people can even take weight loss to the extreme, going the other direction and developing eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Stay alert and don’t ignore mood or behavioral changes in your child. Overall, treat your child with respect and empathy. Avoid blame and criticism.
After all, your child is more than their weight. Continue to give them love and support as they grow and learn more about health and wellness.