As we discussed in our previous blog, Childhood Obesity: Causes, Challenges, and Consequences, there are 3 million new cases of childhood obesity each year. The number sounds startling, however, it’s not the end all be all. There are ways to combat childhood obesity, prevent it, and get it under control once it’s already taken its hold. These tips center around lifestyle changes, while focusing on baby steps. A small difference in each day for thirty days straight will have a far greater impact than two days of big changes in a 30 day period.
Ways to prevent childhood obesity
Two words: activity and nutrition. These two concepts are directly correlated, and have a strong effect on a person’s weight in both adults and children. Nutrition provides your child with the energy they need to get through their day, while activity challenges their bodies to work hard, and use the nutrients it’s receiving.
The more often their bodies work hard, the stronger their biological system becomes and the more calories their bodies need to continue at this pace. Additionally, the stronger their system becomes, the more nutrients their bodies will use in preparation for anticipated activity. This means less excess storage of glucose and lipids, and a lower body fat percentage.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nutritional intake in terms of calories is broken down by age, gender, and activity level. The activity level is broken down into three categories: Not Active, Somewhat Active, and Very Active.
Not Active is a lifestyle that includes the bare minimum physical activity: walking around the house, and conducting basic activities of daily life.
Somewhat Active includes basic activities of daily life as well as 30 to 45 minutes of extra activity like walking.
Very Active includes basic activities of daily life as well as the equivalent of walking quickly for three miles a day, or more than 40 minutes of consistent exercise.
To better understand the calories needed each day based on age, gender, and activity level, take a look at the table below courtesy of the National Institute of Health.
Ways to regain control of obesity in a child
If your child is nearing obese body mass index, or if they have already been diagnosed as obese, take a deep breath. There are ways to get this under control, and you can take baby steps.
Children don’t like to be told what to eat. In fact, adults don’t either. Who can blame them? For some, it’s emotional comfort. For others, it’s a control issue when food is the only thing they have a choice over. For most, it’s the pleasure factor: food can be delicious!
Assess your child’s caloric intake, and guestimate as best as you can. Look at the highest calorie snacks your child eats. Then look for more nutrient dense, less caloric alternatives. By changing only the snacks you will meet less resistance from your little one, and still have an influence on what they’re eating.
If they love soda, cut their intake by 25% to 50% and use water as the substitute. When in doubt, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov. It’s a website containing nutritional values, as well as recommended daily intake and visuals of what it actually looks like on a dinner plate.
Remember: baby steps aren’t massive changes. They are smaller changes meant to add up over time. Each month add in another small change. Each month, work to get your child’s caloric intake to reflect the table listed above.
As is the common theme in this matter, nutrition and activity go hand in hand. Each complements the other, and both work together. When it comes to activity, according to the Mayo Clinic, a child age 6 and older needs at least an hour of physical activity a day. Some children acquire this hour through accumulative recess and lunch hour.
That being said, not all children exercise during their breaks. Try involving your child in mild to moderate sports, or general neighborhood activities like riding a bike. If they spend their after-school hours using electronics, try gently limiting their usage.
Making small adjustments to their activity level won’t change their weight overnight, but it will make a small change in their lifestyle. Small, steady changes in lifestyle will eventually lead to small steady changes in weight. Baby steps will help you, and your child, begin to work on regaining control over their weight and health. You’ve got this!
Principles to promote
Obesity is more than food. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle. Changing a lifestyle can be extremely tough. It’s why we like the baby steps approach: because slow and steady wins the race. It’s the principle of the matter. Rome was not built in a day, just as obesity is not conquered in a night.
Encourage your child to continue making small changes. Help remind them of healthier options in food, and more active alternatives to entertainment. You are their champion, and their best defender. Be active in your role so that your child can be active in theirs in the battle against childhood obesity. You’ve got this… and if you need us, we’ve got you!
We have doctors who can help you at Orchard Hospital’s Medical Specialty Center—Your Everyday Health Care Clinic—offering walk-in care or appointments.
Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior health care. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.