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Childhood Obesity and What You Can Do About It

As my three oldest children were growing up, we lived in a large home in a beautiful neighborhood. There were days my youngest son left the house at 10 o’clock in the morning and didn’t return home until dinner time.

Racing up and down the street, playing football and basketball, weight management was never a problem. After the divorce we moved into a smaller apartment located in a central area of the city. Although the neighborhood was quite safe, we were just off the highway and I didn’t feel as comfortable letting my youngest daughter race around the neighborhood.

How much exercise my children were getting was dependent on how long I could spend outside with them. And, since I worked at home is a freelance writer, those hours were limited.

Today childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. Children struggle to maintain a weight that medicine considered normal. Unfortunately many health conditions are also associated with childhood obesity and the likelihood an individual will grow into adulthood at a normal weight range, having spent their childhood years overweight, is highly unlikely.

Health has always been one of the main concerns I’ve had for my children. Knowing that the foundation of their adult years is laid before the age of 15 I felt it was my parental duty to give them every opportunity to live in to old age with the best health possible.

Faced with a new living situation, it was time for me to more fully focus on some of the same health benefits as my other children.

Nutrition

sept8-walnutsOf course it seems obvious that what we eat is what we become, but sometimes we don’t always live out the knowledge we have. I cringe to think that when my oldest  were still in elementary school they used to eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast!

It took us several years to make significant changes in their diet by just removing something gradually and replacing it with something else. I learned that it wasn’t necessary to make nutritional changes overnight but it was necessary that those changes became a permanent fixture in our menu planning.

Gradually they all are learned to eat salad, vegetables and reduce the amount of refined sugars. Of course, they had no choice since I was doing all the grocery shopping!

Creativity

It might be time to put on your creative hat to help your child resist the sugary, sweet temptations his classmates are chugging down every day. One of the best ways is to help him feel satisfied with the foods he is eating.

There are several reasons why someone overeats, from eating for comfort or celebration, to boredom and lack of interest. After eating high carbohydrate foods, your body gets hungry faster, which increases the number of calories you eat each day. A combination of these factors can lead to your child becoming overweight or obese.

This isn’t an easy challenge in your life or the life of your child, but without pushing or negatively berating your child, you both can find a way to improve his health and his outlook on his own life.

Don’t make this an issue for your child, but instead a project you work on together and don’t expect immediate results. Look for ways to creatively change the meals you serve at home and increase the amount of healthy fats your child eats. These can reduce their craving for sweets and carbohydrates.

Nuts, seeds, and foods high in fiber – like celery with peanut butter, broccoli, salad with salsa for dressing or blueberries – are foods that improve health and help with weight management. Combine this with drinking only water and eliminating soda, which is nothing more than sugar water – or worse.

You have control over what’s in the house, but not in the homes of your child’s friends. So, while you can eliminate junk food at home – better for you and your children – you can’t eliminate it from school and other places your child visits. This is why it’s so important you child believes the choices they make have consequences – BUT that slipping once in a while doesn’t mean he should beat himself up over it.

Sleeping eight hours each night, drinking lots of water and eating foods high in fiber help with weight management. Engage your child in the process, because when they buy into the process they’re more likely to follow it.

Activity

Weight management requires more than just calorie reduction. Your body craves activity and movement. The more you move, the less you eat. You would it’s the opposite – but it isn’t.

Is your child interested in an after school activity? A team he would like to join? Classes he would like to take?

Engage in activities with your child. Buy bikes and go together several times a week. Go for walks as a family after dinner. Model active behaviors for your child – they often do what they see mom doing and NOT what they hear mom saying.

Just Say “NO!” to Supplements

Yes, there are over-the-counter medications and drugs that will help your child control his appetite.  They have an sept8wateramazingly long list of dangerous side effects – including death in some cases. And, they are not the answer.

You can’t take a medication or drug for the rest of your life, so taking one to lose weight for six months, only to regain the weight later, is just an all-around BAD idea.

On the other hand, drinking water each day, taking a multi-vitamin, eating a well-balanced diet  . . . these are all “supplements” that you can and should continue for a lifetime of good health.

Be Supportive

As in all things in life, you child needs your support to be successful. This doesn’t mean lying to them and telling them that everything will be easy – but it does mean listening to them and acknowledging that doing something different can be challenging.

Your child will find this challenging and will likely want to talk about it. This is the time for you to let them talk and tell them, “I know this is difficult. It’s been hard for me to change the way I’m eating too. I know it doesn’t seem fair that you’re changing your eating habits and your friends don’t seem to need to. I’m here to help you through this and we can talk about any time you want.”

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