The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: A Parent’s Responsibility!
The epidemic in childhood obesity presents a large and growing threat to our nation’s health. However, there is much that parents can do and are doing to provide valuable information. Here in the United States 1 out of 3 children and teens are considered either overweight or obese. This number has more than tripled from 1971-2017 making childhood obesity the #1 health concern of parents.
According to clinical RN monthly, obesity predisposes children and adolescents to a host of serious medical conditions, including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Many also develop sleep apnea, which can affect their ability to learn. Other factors include musculoskeletal pulmonary and endocrine disorders that without intervention will threaten their lifespan. Along with those disorders, there are many mental and emotional factors such as depression, body dysmorphia, and social isolation that may affect your overweight teen. Not to mention the damage to their self-esteem is heartbreaking.
What is considered overweight?
In order to provide optimal care and encouragement it is important to recognize and understand the difference between overweight and obesity. The American Medical Association recommends using the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale as the screening tool. It’s a ratio of weight in kilograms to the square of the height in meters. Children and teens with a BMI between the 85th and 95th percentiles are considered overweight, those above the 95th percentile are considered obese, and those in the 99th percentile are considered extremely obese. Although the BMI scale may not be an optimal method for adults because it does not consider lean muscle tissue, it is still the recommended method for screening children from 3-18yrs.
What are the causes?
Now that we understand what it means to be overweight or obese, lets address the main cause of this problem. TOO MANY CALORIES, NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE. This is a classic food energy imbalance. Kids are taking in more calories than what is being expended. Of course, hormonal and genetic factors do play a role in body composition but research has shown that the upward trend cannot be explained by hormonal and genetic factors alone. We have to take charge of our diets! The general population has been shown to consume high calorie, less nutritious diets than ever before. Portion sizes have to be the major culprit. Restaurants advertise huge portions, neglecting the fact that no one should intake that much food in one sitting. For example, you can order a 16oz streak at a restaurant, but the average person should only intake 3-5 oz at one time. As a society we have been conditioned to look for the more-for-less deals, and neglect our actual caloric needs. Along with greater portions kids also are eating less fruits and vegetables and more sugary carbohydrates. If you combine this high-calorie, less nutritious diet with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, you have a recipe for childhood obesity.
What can Parents do about it?
Remember prevention is the key to a healthy future. Parents need to seek education about nutrition not only for their children, but for themselves. There is information available in the form of health/fitness professionals, nutritionists, and literature. Don’t rely on just what you see and hear, search for the information that relates to your family and lifestyle. Encourage your children to eat healthy but at the same time educate them about why they are taking care of their health and what it will mean for their future. We also recommend getting your kids active in recreational sports that they can do with other children and activities that you as parents can participate in with them. It is important to lead by example; parents are the greatest role model for their children, so take the most important step and show them the importance of a happy and healthy lifestyle.