Child obesity: How to help your child win the weight battle

When parents offer their children an increase in high-calorie food, it may result in child obesity,...

When parents offer their children an increase in high-calorie food, it may result in child obesity, particularly if your child does not get enough exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the obesity rate for American children 6 to 11 years old increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in 2008.

The effects of unhealthy eating

There is a difference between an overweight child and an obese child. An overweight child has an excess body weight for his or her height. This excess comes from a combination of muscle, water, fat, and bone. An obese child has an excess of body fat. Both obese and overweight children have a caloric imbalance. This term refers to too few calories used for the amount of calories consumed. Therefore, your child is consuming too many calories and not burning enough of them.

It may become disheartening to imagine the long-term health effects related to childhood obesity. There are immediate health effects, as well, like an increase in cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. Obesity also increases the chances of your child developing type 2 diabetes.

These immediate health effects can turn into long-term medical problems that can shorten your child's life. Unhealthy eating habits coupled with inactivity can increase his or her chances of developing certain cancers, like colon or thyroid cancer. Obesity can also lead to osteoarthritis or strokes.

In addition, obesity during childhood can lead to more serious weight struggles in adulthood. For example, as an adult, your son or daughter may constantly try crash or fad diets to lose the weight only to gain the weight again.

Helping your child

First of all, there are some small changes you can make to your child's eating habits. For example, do not "supersize" your children's meals if you eat at a local fast food restaurant. Also, don't force your child to clean his or her plate. It is important for a child to know when to stop eating because he or she is full. Instead, encourage your child to take smaller portions.

Helping your child overcome obesity does not mean putting your child on a diet. This is not a good approach unless it is approved and supervised by your child's physician. The problem with placing your child on a diet is that your son or daughter is still growing. Each child has his or her own growth patterns. A restrictive diet may not give your child all the nutrients and energy he or she needs for proper development and growth.

Instead, you should focus on your child's health and not a certain weight loss goal. For instance, practice healthier eating habits. You can make the same great meals you would have eating out, just with healthier ingredients at home. Teach your son or daughter healthy eating habits like substituting raw vegetables for potato chips for a crunchy snack. You should also emphasize portion control.

Focusing on healthy eating habits must be something the entire family does. The worst thing for an obese child to endure is eating healthy and watching everyone else indulging. Thus, everyone must practice healthy eating habits. Besides, they look to you to set good examples to follow.

Increase physical activity

Supplying your child with video games is easy to do. Video games, the Internet, and television are great babysitters, but they also lead to inactivity. Limit video games, or encourage game systems that feature play through body movement. In addition, limit time on the Internet and television to two hours a day.

Always emphasize activities and not exercise. Free-play events like jumping rope, freeze tag and hide-and-seek typically burn more calories than an exercise program. Vary the activities. For example, one week go bowling and another week take your children swimming. This way, your child doesn't become bored doing the same activities. Sign your children up for a team sport. Whatever you choose, the activities must be something your son or daughter likes to do.

Increasing your child's physical activity does more than help fight obesity. It helps your child's imagination grow. Also, participating in free-play activities or team sports help your son or daughter social skills. Your child meets other children and makes new friends.

Implementing changes

Changing child obesity starts with you. It is important that you do not reward your children with food. Instead, focus on introducing your child to healthier eating habits and more physical activity. Helping your child become and stay healthy includes scheduling yearly well-child visits. Your physician can check for possible signs of obesity and weight gain in your child.

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