Childhood obesity rates have steadily been on the rise for the past few decades. With busy family schedules, the convenience and low cost of quick meals and children spending more free time in front of screens, the statistics for childhood obesity are unlikely to decline. Currently one in three children in the United States is considered overweight, and one in five is obese. Unfortunately, this can affect a child’s long-term health and set them up for health complications as an adult.
Dr. Jessica Pozzuto, Pediatrician at Keystone Pediatrics in Chambersburg, shares why it’s so important to encourage a healthy lifestyle and weight for your child, and how it can impact the rest of your child’s life in today’s Take Care article.
Why is it important for children to maintain a healthy weight?
A healthy weight in childhood predicts long-term healthy weight into adulthood. Children are considered overweight if their BMI is greater than the 85th percentile or obese if their BMI is greater than the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age, gender and height.
When should parents start being concerned?
We don’t start calculating BMIs until a child is 2 years old. However, examining the growth curve and trend is sometimes more meaningful than just a number. I would become worried as a parent when your child’s healthcare provider notifies you that your child’s weight has been consistently elevated and dietary and/or lifestyle changes are recommended.
What problems can being overweight cause?
Being overweight in childhood can lead to multiple mental and physical health problems. Children who are overweight are more likely to be bullied in school, suffer from body image concerns and have anxiety. Children who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes mellitus, polycystic ovarian syndrome and certain orthopedic injuries.
Can this have long-term effects?
Obesity in childhood predicts adult obesity. Adults with obesity are more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome (hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidemia), arthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, certain cancers, low quality of life and mental illness.
Won’t many kids become slimmer once they grow taller?
Many children do put on weight before a growth spurt; however, every child goes through puberty at a different stage in life. Therefore, if excessive weight is gained, it may be more than what is needed for height, which can contribute to children becoming overweight.
How can parents encourage kids to aim for a healthy weight without affecting the child’s self-esteem?
Society has put an unnecessary burden on what the ideal body image should be, not just with weight, but also with sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and ability status. Encouraging every child to live a healthy active lifestyle to the best of their abilities, offering healthy meals and snacks, and encouraging and supporting them to be their unique selves is the most important thing a parent can do for the mind and growth of a child.
What are some of your recommendations for helping kids maintain a healthy weight?
A healthy weight can be maintained in the setting of a healthy lifestyle. Encourage children to drink plenty of water, eliminate sugary beverages, eat three meals per day and one or two healthy snacks, sleep at least eight hours per night, exercise for 60 minutes per day and limit screen time to less than two hours per day (besides what is needed for schooling).
Do you think virtual learning will affect weight in children?
Virtual learning and the COVID-19 pandemic has already had an impact on the weight gain of many children and adults. If your child feels as though they are hungry, it may be because they are bored or need a distraction from virtual learning. Have them drink a full 8-ounce glass of water, move around and then reassess their hunger status.
By making it a priority to encourage and model a healthy lifestyle for your child, you are taking an important step in helping them become happy, healthy future adults.
This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.