Hey Friends, I’m coming at you with a little bit of a different post today. This is an article I wrote for the Madden Wellness website and I thought I would share it here with all of you as well. Enjoy!
With the growing epidemic of obesity rates in the U.S., also comes the growing concern for childhood obesity. For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at about 17% and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents for the past decade (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html).
Childhood obesity presents many health problems for youth, including early onset of puberty, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, abnormal glucose tolerance and risk of obesity as an adult. In addition to the health risks involved, children with obesity also face social stigma. In their school setting, they are bullied and excluded, which sometimes leads to low self-esteem, body image issues and withdrawing from social interactions.
Many factors influence and perpetuate childhood obesity, including relentless food advertising and less productivity initiatives through physical education in the education system. However, more and more research indicates a significant factor in childhood obesity rests with what occurs at the family level. Parental attitudes regarding diet and exercise, family lifestyle choices and an overall apathy regarding obesity as a health concern can be substantial contributors to childhood obesity. Prevention of childhood obesity is critical and should begin as early as possible.
Although clinical intervention is sometimes necessary, there are a number of steps parents and families can take to reduce the risks of childhood obesity through early intervention and prevention.
Incorporate health as a priority. The predictive factor in childhood obesity is parental obesity, meaning the children of overweight parents are most often overweight themselves. Children look towards their parents for guidance and as a means of learning what is acceptable behavior both in lifestyle decisions and making healthy choices. Educate your children regarding the importance of eating a balanced diet and getting exercise every day. Incorporate lessons to explain the importance, emphasizing longer life and staying healthier. Prepare and integrate healthier and more nutritious options into family meals. And remember – Practice what you preach! They will not take you seriously if they see you doing the opposite of what you’re telling them to do.
Limit sedentary activities. A survey of more than 1,600 U.S. parents was conducted by the YMCA of the USA. The survey showed that that 74% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 do not get enough exercise on a daily basis, based on the 60 minutes of daily physical activity recommended in the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In addition, it showed about 50% of children 5-10 are watching at least two hours of TV a day more than five days a week, and spending an hour in front of a computer three days a week (http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20110414/most-young-kids-dont-get-enough-exercise).
These results indicate many parents are not placing an important enough focus on physical activity nor are they enforcing limits for their children’s “screen-time” activities. Parents need to incorporate activities at least 3-4 times a week, an hour each day. In addition, they should place limits on their children’s screen-time activities. Parents are encouraged to view these actions just as they would any other action for their children’s health. For example, it is routine for children to receive vaccinations from illness and disease, even if they do not like being stuck with a needle. Children should be held accountable for their time spent on technology sources because it is imperative for their long-term health, even if they do not like it.
Consider a Family Based Intervention (FBI) program. A research study initiated a Family Based Intervention program where 38 pairs of parents and their children were enrolled in a 12 – 16 week intervention program. Families were guided in to create short- and long-term goals, as well as learn new skills like how to track their eating. Out of the 38 pairs, 24 completed the program and lost weight or showed improvement (Nauert, R., 2014).
FBI programs are a great way to seek professional services, but at discounted and affordable rates. Costs are usually divided among group participants. To participate in a FBI program, check with local clinics, health departments, YMCA’s and schools to see if there are similar programs offered in the area.
Nauert PhD, R. (2014). Focusing on Families To Tackle Childhood Obesity. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 16, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/16/focusing-on-families-to-tackle-childhood-obesity/71273.html
Disclaimer: This article also appeared on the Madden Wellness Counseling, PLLC website.