Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition wherein the child’s weight is above the normal weight for his or her age and height. According to the World Health Organization, it is one of the most serious public health challenges the world is facing today. In 2010 alone, 42 million children around the world that are below the age of 5 are already overweight. This is particularly troubling since childhood obesity can lead to more serious problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Overweight children are also more prone to bullying and abuse in school which can lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
Unless parents start to address this issue, childhood obesity will continue to rise. Although the number may be alarming, obesity among children can still be prevented through the following:
1. Encourage Physical Activities in the Household
Parents should not simply rely on PE classes just so their children can exercise. That is not enough. In fact, engaging in physical activities should be part of your routine as a family. Schedule a weekly, or if the possible daily activity of jogging, running, or playing in the park every morning. You can also plan family activities that involve moving around such as swimming, biking, or playing Frisbee.
The key is to get the child moving. However, physical activities should not be focused on your overweight child alone. It is important to get the whole family involved by emphasizing the benefits of sports and other physical activities.
2. Promote Healthy Diet
Aside from exercise, improving the whole family’s diet is one way to prevent obesity. As much as possible, stick to natural foods by increasing the consumption of foods and vegetables and including other healthy foods such as whole grain, oats, nuts, lean meats, fish, and poultry. Reduce or limit, if not eliminate sugar and any other unhealthy foods such as chips, soda, candy, chocolates, and any other processed and artificially sweetened products. When having snacks, avoid purchasing or preparing foods with high-calorie intake or high salt content.
Also, let your children help in preparing the food and at the same time, take it as an opportunity to educate them on the importance of each food and why it is good for the body.
3. Avoid Using Food as a Reward
Most parents are guilty of this. Giving food such as chocolates or candies should not be done in order to reward your kids for good behavior or high grades. Instead of helping them to lose weight or prevent their weight from increasing, you, as a parent, are contributing towards your children’s unhealthy lifestyle. That should not be the case.
Positive reinforcement should not be confined to food alone. There are many other ways where you can reward your children for a job well done and food should not be included in the list. On the other hand, occasional eating out won’t hurt, especially when there is something to celebrate such as a birthday or graduation. Otherwise, do not use food as a reward.
4. Establish a Schedule
Television and video games may be unavoidable, considering the technology that society has now. Because of this, more children are getting addicted, causing them to just focus on playing video games rather than going outside and play. In order to foster and encourage physical activities, the best thing to do is to establish a schedule on when and how long your child will use each gadget.
For example, limit television use to 1 hour a day and make sure that all the homework is done before your child can watch. You can even watch it together as a family. Also, playing video games should also be done during weekends alone, not on school days.
5. Set a Good Example
Keep in mind that everything starts in the household. Unless you set a good example for your children, there is a higher chance that they will follow. As parents, it is your primary responsibility to promote a healthy lifestyle not just among your children but to the whole family as well, including you. If your child sees you lying around and watching TV, there is a greater chance that he or she will do the same. When doing physical activities as a family, your child should see you exercising too. Your child will most likely follow if he or she sees you moving around as well.
As much as possible, set a good example for your children. You should be their role models towards an active and healthy lifestyle. Hence, it is important to do all activities as a family by getting every member involved.
Obesity among children can still be prevented. The key to a healthy lifestyle among children should begin with parents by encouraging their kids to play and move around, maintain a healthy diet, and setting a good example. It’s never too late to start acting on this matter and the best way is to start now.