Obesity-Related Health Problems in Kids
It’s a well known fact that childhood obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases in adulthood. But what many parents might not realise until problems arise, is that overweight and obese kids and teens often have weight-related problems during childhood.
Some of these problems could be difficulty breathing such as asthma and exercise intolerance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, bone and joint problems, elevated cholesterol levels, menstrual irregularities, as well as taking an emotional toll on our kids such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, bullying and discrimination, teasing, excluded from team sports (I did experience these painful emotional issues first-hand, being an overweight child).
Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. It is an extremely difficult cycle to break and prevention is the key to combating childhood obesity.
The far-reaching health problems associated with obesity have dire implications for kids right now. So it’s vital that parents do all they can to help kids reach and maintain a healthy weight. Being a good role model is a key part of this — let your kids see you eating healthy foods in appropriate serving sizes, enjoying treats in moderation, and exercising regularly.
Understanding how children become obese or overweight in the first place is an important step toward breaking the cycle. Most cases of childhood obesity are caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Children need enough food to support healthy growth and development. But when they take in more calories than they burn throughout the day, the result is weight gain.
Many factors contribute to this growing imbalance between calories in and calories out:
- Busy families are cooking less and eating out more, or just taking home fast-food meals as there is easy access to cheap, high-calorie junk food.
- Food portions are bigger than they used to be, both in restaurants and at home.
- Kids spend less time actively playing outside, and more time watching TV, playing video games, and sitting at the computer.
Good eating habits start at home. The best way to fight or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to get the whole family on a healthier track. Making better food choices and becoming more active will benefit everyone, regardless of weight. And with the whole family involved, it will be much easier for your overweight child to make lasting changes.
If your children see you eating your vegetables, being active, and limiting your TV time, there’s a good chance that they will do the same. These habits will also have the happy side effect of helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Making more nutritious food choices
Helping your child beat obesity begins with helping him or her forge a healthy relationship with food. You may need to make major changes to your eating lifestyle.
- Eat a rainbow of colours – Serve and encourage consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This should include red (beets, tomatoes), orange (carrots, squash), yellow (potatoes, bananas), green (lettuce, broccoli) and so on
Make breakfast a priority. Children who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese than those who skip it. Focus on healthy choices such as a smoothie encompassing fresh fruit, a few greens whose taste is masked by the fruit, natural yoghurt, a few nuts and seeds, possibly some honey and/or other nutritional items. Time is usually very limited in the morning for the kids to sit down and eat a meal, but they should have no problem drinking down the nourishing smoothie – even on the way to school – (made very quickly and easily in the Vitamix Total Nutrition Center), and you can be sure you have given them a great start to the day for their physical and educational needs at school.
In the absence of a physical disorder, the only way to lose weight is to reduce the number of empty calories being eaten and to increase the child’s or adolescent’s level of physical activity.
- Parents should emphasize healthy eating, keep fatty and sugary snacks to a minimum and keep fruits, vegetables and low-fat snacks available (A quick and easy way to do this could be by making healthy, yet tasty snacks in the dehydrators , so your kids don’t feel deprived or feel as if they are missing out and the whole family will enjoy these tasty treats)
- Increase physical activity, e.g. by taking a few brisk walks with your child each week
- Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and rest of his or her life.
- If possible, try and limit the amount of money children have to purchase junk food and fast foods in favour of the healthy breakfast and lunches you provide from home.