There are several ways to help curb childhood obesity

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness month.

If a child is more than 20 percent higher than his/her ideal weight for a boy/girl of their age and height, they are considered obese.

Causes of obesity are complex and can include genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors. Although certain medical disorders can cause obesity, less than one percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems.

Obesity can be caused by poor eating habits, lack of exercise, stressful events or changes that lead to emotional eating, family or peer problems, low self-esteem or depression.

But the most common cause is overeating or binging.


Being obese increases a child’s risk for many serious medical problems such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, reduced lung capacity, sleep apnea preventing quality sleep, bone conditions such as hip problems, gastro-intestinal diseases, lowered ability to dissipate heat and  psychological issues affecting self esteem.

If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance the children will be, too. If both parents are obese, that number rises to 80 percent. What this tells us, is that fighting obesity is a family affair. Obesity is not your child’s problem; the whole family must be involved in solving the problem.

Chances are someone else in the family has also struggled with the issue.

Mealtimes should be family times. Cooking, eating and sharing mealtime chores as a family can be a great way to connect and learn about healthy eating. For many of us, this is a lost connection with our kids because of overbooked evenings. A fast-food menu just won’t cut it for the long haul.

Be a good role model. If you pay attention to eating healthy, your kids will hear and see you follow through with what you know is important.

Preparing the same old foods a little differently and trying new foods that are healthy keeps life in the kitchen interesting.

When my daughters come into the kitchen and wonder what I’m cooking, I always offer them some. Sometimes, to my surprise, they try it, and actually like it.

Other times, they turn their nose up, and that’s OK, too. I am exposing them to healthy cooking and over time, they will come around.


People often ask me if my kids eat like I do, and I usually say no. They are kids and they have preferences, but I always make sure to incorporate healthier versions of some old favorites like pizza with whole wheat crust with veggies on top.

For the serving of veggies, one prefers a spinach salad with her favorite dressing, and the other gets steamed broccoli on her baked potato. I’m willing to put in a little extra effort to cook the veggies they each prefer. This works for us.

Encourage physical activity

• Make a lifestyle change by decreasing inactivity, such as parking further away in a parking lot or taking the stairs when possible.

• Plan exercise in your day, and your child may want to join in. Playing a game outside, shooting some hoops or taking a bike ride together is good quality family time and burns calories.

Help your child set goas

• Begin by setting weekly goals for changes in their diet and exercise habits. Examples include taking a walk after school every day and snacking on fresh fruit.

• Have your child keep a record of their food intake and exercise so they can be more self-aware of their behavior. Review it together and give them positive feedback.


• Help your child recognize hunger and fullness signals, and teach them to stop when they are full.

• Help your child assess emotions and situations that may trigger binging habits.

• Reward positive behavior, and make behavior changes a fun experience by planning healthy foods and fun activities.

Obesity develops over time, and cannot be solved overnight. This is a process that requires behavior changes.

It is essential that you consult your child’s doctor to adopt the right diet and exercise plan specific to your child. The National Childhood Obesity Foundation reminds us that dealing with obesity in children is more difficult than in adults since they are still in stages of growth.

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