Kids and Weight Control: The Role Of Parents
For parents of children with weight problems, it can be a confusing situation. Should you restrict their food or just leave well enough alone and hope they grow out of it? The key is to help your children adopt healthful habits that will stay with them through life.
A Growing Problem
Childhood weight problems often carry over into adulthood, and overweight adults are at greater risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Worse, conditions once associated only with adults, such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a major risk factor for stroke and heart attacks), are now increasingly being found in some children and adolescents.
Several factors may be to blame. In rare cases, a medical problem may be the cause. If you suspect your child has a weight problem or is developing one, take him to the doctor for a full exam.
The most common factors in childhood obesity may include the following:
Lack of Exercise
Experts blame too much television, computer time, and video games, which take away time from doing physical activity.
Consuming Too Many Calories
Today's time-pressed families are relying more and more on convenience foods and fast foods, many of which are high in calories, especially from carbohydrates. High fat intake from burgers, fries, and pizza plays a role, but many kids are also gulping down hundreds of calories a day in the form of sodas, sports drinks, and sweetened juice drinks.
Overly-large serving portions at both restaurants and at home have also likely played a role. Additionally, many schools may not provide healthy lunches.
Research has shown that children with overweight parents and/or siblings are more likely to be overweight themselves. While genes may play a role, it may also be that parents pass on unhealthful behaviors and habits to their children.
Dos and Don'ts for Parents
The best advice for parents is to help your kids eat healthfully, be active, and build self-esteem.
Here are some dos and don'ts to help you:
Healthful Habits for Life
The best advice for any family is to eat and enjoy healthful food together and to exercise together. Kids who learn healthful behaviors as part of a family lifestyle are much more likely to continue those healthful habits throughout their lives.
American Academy of Family Physicians
Weight-control Information Network
Canada's Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
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NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated February 28, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2012.
Obesity and overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/. Updated May 24, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2012.
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Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD