How to prevent childhood weight problems
Childhood obesity has been on the rise for years and it has reached a point where if society carries on this way, our children will be the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicate that more than one in five children and adolescents in the United States are overweight.
Though there are some genetic diseases that predispose children toward obesity, these disease are uncommon and only account for approximately 10 percent of childhood obesity. These include diseases such as Prader-Willi syndrome where obesity, insatiable appetite and mental retardation are symptoms. For more information on genetic diseases and hormonal causes for obesity, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians website.
The causes that surround the issue of childhood obesity can mostly be attributed to lifestyle. Lack of exercise and eating too much accounts for 90 percent of the obesity problem in America.
Overweight children have an increased risk of succumbing to type two diabetes and of developing heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer later in life. These risks make it increasingly important to get a handle on childhood obesity.
Whether your child is overweight, at risk of becoming overweight or is currently at a healthy weight, there are measures you can take to ensure a healthy lifestyle:
- Set a good example by making sure your own diet is consistent with maintaining healthy weight. Live what you preach.
- Don't use food as a reward or punishment - food is not a behavior modifier, it's nourishment.
- Remember most kids grow into their extra weight when they get taller, so try not to focus too intensely on the scale. It could backfire and leave your child at risk of developing an eating disorder.
- Limit consumption of high-sugar foods, including juices.
- Be conscious of portion sizes.
- Encourage drinking lots of water.
- Remember, children will eat the food you present to them if there is no other choice. It might take a while, but they will not starve themselves.
- Be active, and invite your child to join you. Hike for 30 minutes or participate in shorter, more intense activities like jogging or playing basketball for 15 minutes a day.
- Emphasize the positive. Along with the health benefits, exercise can be fun.
- Incorporate different seasonal vegetables and fruit, so dinnertime doesn't become stale.
- Restrict the amount of television and video game time.
- Play with your kids, don't just sit on the sidelines. They'll respond to you getting involved.
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