While it may seem overwhelming to hear your child is obese, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to get your child on the right track.
Many families have been facing this difficulty because childhood obesity has been on the rise. By getting help from your pediatrician and making some lifestyle changes at home, you not only can help your child lose weight, but also create a foundation for a healthy life into adulthood.
The Risks of Obesity
If your child or teen is obese, they are at a higher risk for a number of serious medical problems. They also are much more likely to be overweight as an adult and suffer from obesity-related health problems.
One of the major risks of childhood obesity is a cardiovascular-related condition, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. They also are at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, a condition that used to almost always affect adults but is increasingly becoming a disease that affects children and teens. Your child may also struggle with back and joint pain, asthma, sleep apnea, and a host of other serious medical problems.
It’s also important to keep in mind that children who struggle with obesity also can become obsessed with their weight and body image. They are more likely to try fad diets, skip meals, or rely on other unhealthy eating behaviors. Their obsession can also develop into an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
How to Combat Obesity
If your child is obese, the best way to get them to a healthy weight range is to focus on developing healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes for your child and your whole family. Instead of obsessing about what the scale says, focus on building the daily habits listed below, and you should see the numbers on the scale drift down. It’s also important to talk to your pediatrician to help guide you through these changes.
Build Healthy Eating and Drinking Habits
Switching your family’s diet might seem like a daunting task, especially if your family is already in the habit of eating fast food, junk food, or sweetened beverages. But this one of the most important changes you can make to fight obesity.
- Meals and Snacks: Your child should have three well-balanced meals (skipping meals can contribute to obesity) and one to two snacks each day. Offer healthy snacks like these ideas from our blog and make sure these healthy options are ready before your child gets overly hungry.
- Swap out sugary drinks and juice: Avoid soda, energy drinks, and other sugar-sweetened drinks. Limit juice to 4 ounces or less a day. Diet sodas or “sugar free” drinks also should be avoided. Instead, have your child drink water. You can make it more enticing by having an icy pitcher ready to go, or add slices of lemons or limes for flavor.
- Limit portion sizes: Learn the appropriate portion sizes for what you are serving and eating. Americans are in the habit of serving large portion sizes that are more than a person needs. This also is especially true at restaurants, so get your family in the habit of using to-go boxes and savings some of your restaurant meal for later.
- Include your child in food prep: If your child is engaged in the process of choosing foods and preparing them, they are more likely to eat those healthier options. Take them to the store with you and encourage them to pick out a rainbow of colors in the produce section. Include them in meal planning and invite them to help you in the kitchen.
Include Exercise and Movement Into Your Daily Life
Set a goal of at least one hour of physical activity each day. You can spread that out into smaller increments throughout the day, whether it’s going for a walk, a short bike ride, or playing on a playground. We have some tips and ideas for building a healthy active lifestyle in this blog post.
Limit Technology Time
Make sure your child is getting no more than two hours of screen time a day. Studies have found that the number of hours a kid spends in front of a screen is directly related to their body mass index, as well as how many calories they consume a day. That’s because not only is your child sedentary for long periods, but they often mindlessly snack on high-calorie junk food, delivering a double whammy to your child’s health.
Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep, or even getting too much sleep, can be impacting your child’s weight. Check our guide for teens or children for a guide on how much sleep they should be getting and how to build healthy sleep habits.
How Pediatrics West Can Help
If your child is obese or overweight, talk to your provider at Pediatrics West. Your provider can advise you on strategies to help you develop and continue healthy habits at home. If needed, we also can refer your child to a lifestyle management program at Children’s Hospital for support and guidance.