Children are gaining unhealthy amounts of weight. They spend more time indoors playing video games or watching television, that they no longer have opportunities to be physically active daily. The food they eat, which is high in calories and sugar content but low in nutrients, contributes to an epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 19.3 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 are considered obese between 2017 and 2018. That is about 14.4 million young Americans.
Obesity in children harms their bodies in various ways, including inflicting them with health conditions that are more common among adults, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It also makes them more likely to have type-2 diabetes.
It is time to intervene. Parents and educators need to talk to children about weight, the dangers of obesity, and what they can do to maintain a healthy physique. Adults who do not know how to help their children should seek the help of a professional. They can consult a health coach for coaching in nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes based on the child’s situation and needs.
Here are a few tips to help your children get in shape.
Make Health a Family Activity
Children look up to their parents. Their actions and their behaviors mimic and reflect those of adults around them.
So, if you want your child to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, you should do it, too.
A child will feel more supported if their parents and siblings are involved in it. If they have to watch what they eat or exercise regularly on their own, they will only feel alone.
Instead of forcing your child to exercise, teach them to play soccer or baseball. Make it a family event. Set your Sunday mornings as a time to go to the park and play, for example. This will also be good for everyone. Exercise helps everyone be healthy. Even kids who appear to be lean are still at risk of becoming diabetic.
It might also help motivate a child to eat healthy if they participate in food preparation. Perhaps, if you have a garden, teach them how to grow various herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that people who grow produce are more likely to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
If not, going to the grocery and shopping with your children will do the work. Let them choose the fruits and vegetables that you will buy. Later on, ask them to assist you when you cook.
Promote Health Education at School
Children have no idea how to maintain a healthy weight. Their perception of it is probably based on what they see on television or on the internet, which is not always accurate.
Adults need to teach them what is actually involved in eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Tell them that they do not have to eat a salad every day or go to a gym to exercise. Schools should have programs where the children can learn how to make healthy choices in the classroom and at home. Introducing gardening can help children form an appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Children should also be exposed to new recipes that are yummy and nourishing at the same time. Daily physical activities at school, in addition to what is in the curriculum, can also teach children that fitness can be fun. A brief time for stretching in between classes may be simple but will instill the importance of moving, especially after sitting in one place for a long period.
Be Open Discussion About Weight and Health
Treating the subject of weight as taboo will only make children uncomfortable discussing it and taking steps to become healthier. Encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts about their body. Be sure to listen. Do not ignore or dismiss their words. Experts say that parents and educators should wait for the child to open up instead of sitting them down and having a long discussion about concerns.
Avoid using the words “fat” or “thin.” Some physicians do not even use the words “obese” and “overweight” when talking to children. Their goal is to drive the point that health is important. It is not about appearances, after all. The conversation should be about what makes the child feel better about themselves and what will save them from suffering a medical condition because of excess weight.
Childhood obesity is clearly a major problem in the U.S. and many countries around the world. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible to prevent children from having illnesses related to unhealthy weight.