In a world of computer games, obesity in children has risen due to too many food options and advertisements marketing junk food and soda. With unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits growing up, obese children lead to overweight adults. Most children who deal with weight gain issues, grow up to have major health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The best way to decide whether or not your child might be obese is to get a consultation from your doctor. This will help you get your child’s BMI to make a more informed decision on how to lose weight safely. They also deal with psychological problems such as confidence and poor self-esteem problems. So what are some causes and weight loss tips for preventing obesity in children?
Causes of Obesity in Children
What is Childhood Obesity?
Childhood obesity affects more than 30 percent of children, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood. Childhood obesity is not just a cosmetic problem. Today, more and more children are being diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and other co-morbid conditions associated with obesity and morbid obesity.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Although there are multiple causes of childhood obesity ; certain factors are targeted as major contributors to this epidemic. Causes associated with childhood obesity include:
Today’s environment plays a major role in shaping the habits and perceptions of children and adolescents. The onslaught of television commercials promoting unhealthy foods and eating habits is a large contributor. In addition, children are burdened with homework, computers and television, instead of physical activity.
Today, it is estimated that more money is spent on food outside home, at restaurants, cafeterias, etc. In addition, when people eat out they tend to take in larger calories than when they eat at home.
Beverages such as carbonated soft drinks and packaged juice also greatly contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic. It is not uncommon for a bottle of cola which contains approximately 400 calories to be marketed aiming at children. The consumption of cola by children has increased throughout the last 20 years by 300 percent. Scientific studies have documented a 60 percent increase risk of obesity for every regular soft drink consumed per day. Packaged drinks, juice, energy drinks and sports drinks present another significant problem. These beverages contain a significant amount of calories and it is estimated that 20 percent of children who are currently overweight are due to excessive caloric intake from beverages.
Lack of Physical Activity
Children in today’s society show a decrease in overall physical activity. The growing use of computers, increased time watching television and decreased physical education in schools, all contribute to children and adolescents living a more sedentary lifestyle.
Another major factor contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic is the increased sedentary lifestyle of children. School-aged children spend most of their day in school where their only activity comes during breaks or physical education classes.
Only 50 percent of children, 12 to 21 years of age, regularly participate in rigorous physical activity, while 25 percent of children report no physical activity. The average child spends two hours a day watching television, but 26 percent of children watch at least four hours of television per day.
Heredity and Family
It has been proven that children with obese parents are more likely to be obese. Estimates say that heredity contributes between 5 to 25 percent of the risk for obesity. However, genes alone do not always dictate whether a child is overweight or obese. Learned behaviors from parents are a major contributor. Parents, who are obese should understand their children are at risk for obesity at a young age and should promote healthy food and lifestyle choices early in their development.
Over the past few decades, dietary patterns have changed significantly. The average amount of calories consumed per day has dramatically increased. Furthermore, the increase in caloric intake has also decreased the nutrients needed for a healthy diet.
Food portions also play an important role in the unhealthy diet patterns that have evolved. The prevalence of “extra large” options and “all you can eat” buffets create a trend in overeating. Combined with a lack of physical activity, children are consuming more and expending less.
Educational levels contribute to the improved socioeconomic status associated with obesity. Parents with little to no education have not been exposed to information about proper nutrition and healthy food choices. This makes it difficult to instill those important values in their children.
Measuring Obesity in Children
Weight categories for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages. Children’s weight categories are determined by measuring a child’s weight and then plotting them on a weight-to-age chart. There are separate weight-to-age curves for males and females, aged two to 20 years.
Treating Childhood Obesity
Treating obesity in children and adolescents differs from treatment in adults. Involving the family in a child’s weight management program is a key element to treatment. Treatment of pediatric obesity is not accomplished by just dieting. One needs to address multiple aspects of the child and the family’s lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity patterns. Prior to discussing any treatment plans, one first must determine the desired goals. If the child is overweight, or at risk of becoming overweight, it is important to work and develop an individualized plan of care that includes realistic goals and action steps.
As a support system, family is integral in ensuring weight management goals are met. We must first assess the readiness of the child and the family to make changes. If the child is very depressed, this needs to be addressed prior to working on the child’s weight problem. If a depressed child attempts weight-loss and is unsuccessful, this may worsen their depression or lower their self-esteem.
Similarly, if there is a lot of stress in the family at that time, it is not ideal to try and tackle yet another major issue. In some situations where there is significant depression or stress, it may be most appropriate for the child and the family to seek counseling to address these issues.
It is important to talk with the physician about options for treating childhood obesity. The various treatments of obesity in children and adolescents include:
When treating an obese child or adolescent, it is often recommended that they have a consultation with a dietician who can address the child’s needs. Dieticians can help children understand healthy eating habits and how to implement them in their long-term diet.
Dieticians do not always recommend restricting caloric intake for children. Education on how to identify healthy food, cut back on portions, understand a balanced meal and eat smaller bites at a slower pace is generally the information given to change a child’s eating habits.
Another aspect of obesity treatment in children is increasing physical activity which is an important long-term ingredient for children, as studies indicate that inactivity in childhood has been linked to a sedentary adult lifestyle.
Increasing physical activity can decrease, or at least slow the increase of fatty tissues in obese children. It is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Individualized programs are available and possible for those children or adolescents who are not able to meet minimum expectations.
Lifestyles and behaviors are established at a young age. It is important for parents and children to remain educated and focused on making long-term healthy lifestyle choices.
There are several ways that children and adolescents can modify their behavior for healthier outcomes, such as:
- Changing eating habits
- Increasing physical activity
- Becoming educated about the body and how to nourish it appropriately
- Engaging in a support group activity and setting realistic weight management goals
Tags: Obesity in Children , Weight Gain , Weight Loss , Causes , Obese , How to Lose Weight