I have briefly talked about childhood obesity in the past in some of my guest posts, but I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to talk more in depth about how childhood obesity can affect your child. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, so what a better time to talk about this issue. There are immediate health effects and long term health effects. The plus is you can even prevent and reverse some of the effects.
Immediate health effects
By immediate health effects, I mean effects of being obese that occur as the child gains weight and tends to get worse the more weight the child gains. Obese children are more likely to develop cardiovascular effects such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. With the increased weight, children are more at risk for asthma. Children who are obese are also at increased risk to develop prediabetes, an indicator that they are at increased risk to develop diabetes. Prediabetes can be reversible if action is taken right away, but there is currently no cure for diabetes. Some other conditions children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for include bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, social and psychological such as poor self-esteem and depression. Children can even have sleep apnea because of their weight. Obese children can even have early puberty or menstruation due to hormonal imbalances.
Long term health effects
The long term effects are effects that can be life long, even if the child loses weight. For example, prediabetes is an immediate health effect that can potentially be reversed with weight loss and a healthy diet, but prediabetes can turn into diabetes which is a lifelong disease. Those who are obese as children are more likely to be obese as adults as a result of some of the unhealthy habits that were learned. This in turn increase the risk of adult health problems such as stroke, cancer, heart disease and more.
Being obese can increase the risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and more.
Prevention is key when it comes to obesity. It is easier to develop healthy habits early in life than to have to fix those habits and lose weight later in life.
Teaching kids healthy eating habits early on is one way to prevent obesity. Ensure your children eat fruits and vegetables every day. If they only like one vegetable, encourage them to eat others, but eating just one or two is better than none. Teaching kids to try a variety of foods is another great way to help them eat healthier. I am not saying they can never have cake or cookies either. Kids just need to be taught to eat junk food in moderation. Sugary drinks and fast food should also be limited.
Also, do not force your kids to eat more than they want. Often parents will encourage kids to eat “just one more bite” then “one more” and so on until their plate is empty. I understand teaching kids not to waste food, but if they are full you shouldn’t encourage them to eat more. Allowing your kids small snacks between meals, as long as they are healthy, is also a good idea.
Encouraging kids to exercise is also a great idea. There are several ways to encourage your kids to exercise. You can encourage them to join sports in school, or even trick them into exercising.
The best way to prevent your child from becoming obese is to teach by example. If they see you pigging out on chips and cake but not eating fruits and vegetables, what do you think they are going to want to do? If you don’t get up and move with them and just sit on the couch, what do you think they will do? This is a great opportunity for your whole family to get healthy.
Once a child is overweight it will be hard to get them to follow a healthy lifestyle and to lose the weight. It will take a lot of work, but your child’s health depends on your persistence. The treatment for obesity is the same as the prevention. You have to teach your children healthy eating and exercising habits. They will resist at first, but you can teach them with a lot of patience. Again, you can lead by example when it comes to a healthier lifestyle.
Not all children will need to lose weight. Depending on the age they may be put on a weight management diet that will slow down their weight gain to allow them to gain height and not weight.
Do you fear your child is on their way to being obese? What have you done to encourage a healthy lifestyle?