In affluent countries the numbers of overweight and obese children are skyrocketing. Obesity is a serious health concern that sets the stage for debilitating and deadly illnesses to develop. A study at the Harvard School of Medicine discovered a 27 percent increase in the numbers of children with high blood pressure over the course of 13 years. Overweight children are also showing signs of diseases that usually only afflict people in middle age or older, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The health and quality of life of obese children is significantly reduced as they age if they do not lose the excess weight. But are obese children doomed to lifelong disease, or can childhood obesity be reversed?
1. Unhealthy Patterns
Children take on the habits they learn from their parents. When children are taught to make poor eating choices those patterns can be challenging to transform. The key is for parents to become positive role models. The most effective way to help your children overcome obesity is to inspire them with your own new, healthier eating and lifestyle patterns.
2. The Cost of Affluence
In many places, as incomes get larger so do waist sizes. One of the factors in the greater numbers of childhood obesity is the rise of suburban culture, with sprawling communities that make people completely dependent on automobiles for transportation. Children are usually driven or bussed to school, where they sit in classrooms all day, before being driven home. Many families drive to all of their activities.
To help children lose weight, get them moving. If it is possible to safely bicycle in your area, get your children bikes and helmets and encourage them to ride. Walk as much as possible with them, even if it means sneaking in walks by parking further away from your destinations. Find ways to show your children that is possible to be affluent and in shape.
3. The Screen Generation
It is common to see kids parked in front of a screen like it is a holy thing. Computers, smart phones, and televisions have replaced sports and outdoor games as primary childhood entertainment. And most affluent children do not participate in any of the activities like gardening or housecleaning that kept previous generations active.
Encourage your children to explore outside, or better yet, go with them. Go on hikes in your local natural areas. If you are going to give your children a digital entertainment device choose one that uses full body interaction, not just a thumb-controlled device. Limit your childrens non-school related screen time.
4. Insulin Resistance
The human body can only handle so much sugar before it begins to create serious health challenges. Eating sugar and processed foods (which act like sugar in the body) spikes blood glucose levels. When blood glucose levels are high, the pancreas releases extra insulin to process the sugar. Over time more and more insulin is needed to balance the blood sugar levels. Eventually the pancreas can become unable to produce enough insulin, which leads to insulin resistance. This sets us up to develop type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
To keep this from happening, it is important to monitor your childs intake of sugar. Small bodies are more susceptible to sugar-related disorders. Clear the processed foods and sugary treats out of your house, and fill your kids up with vegetables and fruits.
5. Forgetting How to Listen
People can only become obese if they are unable to hear the natural cues from their bodies. When we are in sync with our true needs, we only eat what is nourishing for the body, and stop eating when we are full. But with all the external stimuli and social conditioning, children are not trained to listen to their own bodies.
To help your overweight children return to a healthy weight, encourage them to listen to the signals coming from their bodies. Learn together how it feels to be hungry and how to tell when you are full. Teach your children to observe how they feel an hour after eating a fast food meal or sugary treat versus how they feel an hour after eating a salad or green smoothie. Awareness is the first step to healing.
Studies show that not all obese children are doomed to become obese adults. But in order to reverse the course on which they are headed, these children have to make serious eating and lifestyle changes. On the other hand, even thin children can become obese when they are older if they do not develop healthy habits. Help your children grow into normal-weight adults by practicing healthier eating and exercise habits. You are your childrens most powerful role model, and it is up to you to show them how to be healthy.