Childhood obesity is one of the fastest growing problems in our nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 20-percent of children ages 6 to 11, and 19-percent for adolescents ages 12 to 19, are overweight or obese.
If you asked many health officials what’s the single biggest health issue facing Americans in the coming years, they’d say it was the nation’s growing obesity rate.
While many parents know that helping their children learn good eating habits is as important as teaching them to read and write, both parents and youngsters continue to lose the battle of the bulge. It’s one struggle nine-year-old Breanna Bond knows quite well.
After tipping the scales at 186 pounds, Breanna and her mom Heidi knew they had to do something. Breanna was being teased at school, and Heidi knew her daughter’s weight was unhealthy. Although the family didn’t indulge in fast food and sugary drinks, their hearty home-cooked meals and sedentary lifestyle helped Breanna pack on the pounds.
As a baby, she says, Breanna had a hearty appetite, and her parents joked that she would grow up to be like her dad — a 6-foot, 200-pound man.
By the time she was a year old, Breanna weighed close to 25 pounds. Bond asked their pediatrician whether she should be concerned, but he assured her Breanna would grow into the weight.
Over the next few years, Breanna packed on the pounds. In preschool, she was bigger than any of the other kids in her class.
Her parents hired a nutritionist, but the healthy habits didn’t stick. They brought their daughter to a psychologist and an endocrinologist; both said Breanna’s test results were normal. Breanna joined a dance class and a swim team, but her weight continued to climb.
Breanna and her mom took several steps to help her lose the weight. They began working out together, Heidi cooked healthier meals, and they incorporated more enjoyable physical activities into their lifestyle. Soon, Breanna shed 65 pounds, but each day is a struggle.
These days parents have to battle the seduction of fast food, commercials touting sugary snacks and drinks, and a technology-based lifestyle that favors sitting still over being active.
But for parents who are looking to help their children shed the weight, health experts offer this advice:
- Enlist the family: If your child is overweight, instead of singling them out make healthy living a priority for the whole family. Cook healthy meals together, go for long walks as a group, and make healthy living apart of your daily lives.
- Make exercise fun: Does your child bristle at the idea of spending an hour on the treadmill? Instead of traditional exercises, find activities your child loves to keep them moving. Enroll them in sports, sign them up for dance, or work out together. By letting kids pick activities they enjoy they’ll be more inclined to stick to them.
- Instill a healthy body image: When kids are overweight it’s easy for them to feel self-conscious. Sometimes parents heighten their child’s uneasiness by commenting on their bodies or their weight, but experts advise parents help kids build their self-esteem instead. While parents should champion healthy living, they should also avoid teaching kids to define their self-worth based on the numbers on the scale.