The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6-11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years and more than tripled for adolescents aged 12-19.
Overweight children are at far greater risk of developing some chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and joint problems. In addition, overweight children are more likely to experience anxiety, loneliness and depression.
When obesity is an issue, numbers on the scale should not be your sole focus. Too much emphasis on this measure alone, without taking into account other health factors, can lead to an exaggerated and false body image and eventually anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders. Girls, especially, may use over-the-counter diet aids or drinks to lose weight quickly. The emphasis should be on overall health, including measured or perceived loss of body fat (e.g., pants fit better), increase in energy throughout the day, enhanced feeling of well being, more restful sleep, and lastly, weight.
Teaching kids the importance of eating well and being physically active at a young age is crucial to reversing the trend of childhood obesity in this country. Research shows that if children do not establish healthy patterns of eating and physical activity in childhood, it is very difficult to successfully adopt such behaviors as adults.
Setting a good example is the best way to focus your family's attention on good health. Offering nutritious meals, eating together as a family, and planning family activities such as an after-dinner walk, all contribute to a healthy family situation.