How To Prevent The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Obesity
If your child is a little overweight, there might not be any major problem. A lot of kids grow out of their “baby fat” when they hit their teens. But many do not. And unfortunately, an alarming trend has developed the last few years concerning children that are not just a little overweight, but who are actually obese.
According to the World Health Organization and the Mayo Clinic, childhood obesity is often related to a much higher chance of dying prematurely. It also contributes to disability in adulthood, taking different physical and mental forms of sickness, disease and illness. This includes NCDs (noncommunicable diseases) such as heart problems and diabetes at a younger age that health professionals are seeing than ever before.
What are the biggest problems that sometimes do not surface until adulthood when your child is obese?
In the United States alone, more than 2.5 million people die every year as a direct result of being obese or overweight. The good news here, if there is any to take away from this, is that obesity is largely preventable.
A major problem is the sugar and salt in the typical child’s diet. Even if you limit the amount of salt and sugar you add to your child’s meals, it is most likely already packed into the food you are feeding her. Processed food, any food that comes in a wrapper, leads to higher rates of obesity than unprocessed food, whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
Drinking lots of water, getting plenty of rest and exercising regularly are also components to a healthy lifestyle that fights obesity in children, as well as adults. The idea here is to focus on your child’s entire approach to health and fitness, not just one individual component.
Today’s plugged in the world presents challenges for parents looking to keep their child active. The present generation is the first to be raised entirely in the digital world. Whether your child is a toddler, tween or teen, she is growing up with a smartphone and computer as a major part of her life. This can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which when coupled with poor nutrition, is the perfect recipe for childhood obesity.
If a lifetime of poor health and low self-esteem is not what you hope for your children, get them active. Adopt a healthy eating routine as a family. Limit electronic engagement. Make sure they are getting plenty of water and rest. These combined actions will give your children the best chance at living happy, healthy lives, as both children and adults.
Is Obesity Something You Can Prevent In Your Child?
We all know child obesity is on the rise. In the last 30 years, it has doubled. In 1980, 7% of the children age 6-11 were obese. As of 2012, that figure was 18% and continues to climb.
But what is the cause of childhood obesity? Basically, it comes down to two things: too much of a net increase between the calories consumed and calories expended. In some cases there can also be various genetic, behavioral and environmental factors affecting obesity.
However, by providing healthy meals and snacks to keep the calorie count down, making sure your child gets some daily physical activity to burn off excess calories and teaching them how to make good nutritional choices, you can go a long way in preventing obesity in your child. However, you’ll have a more limited impact over the genetic, behavioral and environmental factors contributing to obesity.
Healthy Meals and Snacks
In the rush to get out the door in the morning, many kids do not get breakfast. That is a big mistake. Every kid should eat a healthy breakfast. Without it, it is like trying to drive a car on an empty fuel tank. They need that boost of energy to do their best at school.
Nutritious cereal with low-fat milk makes an excellent (and fast) breakfast. Make sure they also take a healthy snack of string cheese, fruit or a granola bar with them as a mid-morning snack so they can keep their energy level up until lunch.
Daily Physical Activity
Every kid should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Fun team sports, such as football, basketball, tennis and soccer are all good for burning calories, as is jogging, walking, jumping rope and rollerblading. Not only do these activities burn off calories, but they also help develop the heart, lungs and muscles.
Teaching kids which foods are best for them to eat and portion sizes are as important as teaching them right from wrong. Knowing this information, kids can make informed food decisions when you are not around by making healthy choices.
When grocery shopping, look at nutritional labels with your kid and discuss what the information means to good health (and what to avoid). Also on the label is the serving size. Something that looks like it might be a serving of one can actually be two or three servings. By knowing how to read a nutritional label, kids will be smarter when it comes to making food choices.
By doing what you can to prevent your child from becoming obese is a gift beyond measure. Not only will they be healthier, but they won’t suffer the emotional impact of being obese.
3 Ways Childhood Obesity Can Affect Learning
A study out of the Medical University of South Carolina found a link between adolescent obesity and decreased learning. And because adolescents are still in the developing stage, losing weight may be able to at least stop the trend and even possibly reverse it to some extent.
One decrease in learning, as evidenced by IQ test scores, is due to a condition known as adolescent sleep apnea. Just like in adults, obese children with this condition actually stop breathing while sleeping. While each episode may only last up to 10 seconds, it can occur hundreds of times each night in a child with this condition.
Studies have found the decrease in learning is due to two results from breathing cessation: lack of oxygen to the brain and lack of quality sleep. When the child is not breathing, oxygen is not getting in the lungs, entering the blood stream and being distributed to the brain. With a lack of oxygen over time, injury to existing brain tissue can occur along with affecting further development of the brain. The cause of sleep apnea may be from excess fat in the throat or enlarged tonsils that cuts off the airway.
With a child waking up hundreds of times each night, they are not getting quality sleep even though they may be getting the correct number of hours of sleep. This further effects their learning performance because they go to school tired the next day and can’t focus on learning.
And then there is the emotional side of learning. Social distress also affects learning in obese adolescents. Because obese children “don’t fit in”, normal weight children tend to tease, make fun of or even bully them. This constant taunting causes immeasurable emotional issues of which decreased learning is just one. With low self-esteem and self-worth constantly haunting them, concentrating on learning in school is the farthest thing on their mind. Many can’t take the peer ostracizing anymore and end up taking their own life.
Researchers found the decrease in learning can start as early as kindergarten and seems to be more prevalent in girls than boys. They also found that obese adolescents are less likely to attend any type of post-secondary education. And it all starts with being an obese child.
If you have an obese adolescent, help them get back to learning again by seeking an approved diet and exercise program from your child’s healthcare professional. Be a part of ending the emotional strain and bad grades caused by your child’s obesity. Get them back to actively learning again.