For children, making healthy choices about food and fitness starts with the influence of their parents or guardians. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a reminder for our community to take a moment to learn more about this serious health condition and to encourage healthy growth in our children.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 19 percent of children in the United States are obese — that’s one in every five kids — and these children are more likely to be obese as adults. Children with obesity are at higher risk for multiple other health conditions, including heart disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint issues, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be bullied or teased by their peers and suffer from depression, lower self-esteem and social isolation.
According to Renee Weakley, Family Practice Nurse Practitioner at Prowers Medical Center, lack of activity, too much time in front of a screen and sugary foods and drinks are a few of the leading causes of childhood obesity in Lamar and surrounding communities. The CDC states that on top of those factors, genetics, metabolism and community and social factors can also play a role.
However, most of the time, the root of the issue is in the hands of the child’s parents, who are making meal decisions for the family and have the ability to help prioritize physical activity.
“Kids tend to follow what their parents do — if their parents aren’t eating a healthy diet, then they’re not going to either,” Weakley said.
Helping Establish Healthy Behaviors
Getting your child to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods and participate in regular physical activity are the best ways to either prevent or treat obesity.
“Developing healthy eating as a child promotes healthy eating as an adult and decreases chronic medical conditions,” Weakley said.
Weakley said that at Prowers Medical Center Clinic, Providers and staff encourage children and their parents to remember the 5-2-1-0 rule when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
- 5 — Eat at least five fruits and veggies every day.
- 2 — Minimize screen time to no more than two hours a day (includes phones, computer, television, video games, etc.).
- 1 — Get at least one hour of physical activity per day (could be through organized sports, playing outdoors, walking, riding a bike, etc.).
- 0 — Encourage zero intake of sugary drinks.
In addition to keeping these tips in mind, Weakley also recommends sitting down for a meal as a family instead of eating in front of the TV, which promotes mindful eating, and to limit the amount of sugary drinks and snacks in your home.
“If it’s available in the pantry, kids are going to pick Cheetos or soda over an apple or some sort of other healthy fruit,” Weakley said.
Well Child Checks Play a Role
Annual well child checks are recommended to stay on top of your child’s health and to see if they are growing as they should be. According to the CDC, it’s best to leave it to your Provider in determining whether your child is overweight or not, since no two children are built the same. During a well child check, your Provider can measure your child’s weight and height and compute their BMI, while also considering their age and growth patterns.
“When I have a patient come in for a well child check, I print off the child’s growth chart for their parents,” Weakley explained. “From there, I can show the parent where their child should be (with regard to weight) and where they actually are.”
It’s important to be honest with your child and talk to them about any and all health risks associated with being overweight or obese, especially if these conditions or other associated diseases run in your family’s history. If your child is overweight or obese, remember to be supportive and to help them in any way you can in getting to a healthy weight.
If you’re still having a hard time getting your child to choose healthy foods, Weakley suggests talking to a licensed Nutritionist for additional assistance. You can also ask your Provider to talk to your child about healthy eating during their well child check.
For more information about Family Practice services at Prowers Medical Center Clinic or to schedule a well child check, call 719-336-6767.