Obesity Childhood Prevention

Childhood obesity statistics are alarming: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980. Almost one in five children between the ages of 6 and 11 are now obese, a serious condition that carries with it a high risk of heart disease, diabetes and other complications.

Parental intervention is an important aspect of childhood obesity programs–preventing childhood obesity is much easier than treating obesity. Parental attitudes toward food and exercise have a profound impact on childhood obesity prevention.

Childhood Obesity Prevention and Parental Attitudes

Successfully preventing childhood obesity requires parents to practice what they preach. Childhood obesity statistics show that parents are the most significant influences on a child’s developing views and attitudes. Parents who eat healthy diets and exercise regularly are more likely to prevent childhood obesity, as opposed to parents who prefer sedentary activities and consume fast food on a regular basis.

Childhood obesity programs are best approached as a family affair. Insisting an obese child change his eating habits while the rest of the family eats their habitual diet, for instance, will only upset and isolate the child. Instead, the entire family can benefit from the childhood obesity program’s components, including healthy eating habits and physical activities.

Tips for Preventing Childhood Obesity

The focus of childhood obesity programs should be on good health and an active lifestyle, rather than losing weight. Childhood obesity statistics show that emphasizing weight loss can reinforce social perceptions of body image. Focusing on weight does more than damage a child’s self-esteem — it also increases the risk of eating disorders. Consider the following suggestions for preventing childhood obesity:

  • Arrange and encourage regular physical activity for the entire family. Have children suggest physical recreation. Anything that gets kids moving can aid in preventing childhood obesity: biking, playing tag, swimming, hiking or kicking a ball around are all possibilities.
  • Avoid using food to reward or comfort children. Don’t bribe kids with candy to prevent unwanted behavior. Explore parenting books and websites if you need ideas for rewards or consequences that don’t include food.
  • Don’t bring high-calorie snacks, candy or sweetened drinks into the house. Instead, make fruit and other healthy snacks easily available.
  • Don’t insist that kids eat everything on their plate. Children need to learn to identify when their hunger is satisfied.
  • Don’t label certain foods as “bad.” Forbidding children from eating specific foods often makes them more determined to eat them. Instead, explain that certain foods should only be eaten occasionally.
  • Eat in whenever possible. Eating out or ordering delivery should be a special occasion.
  • Eat on a regular schedule, sitting down to eat together. Discourage eating alone or while watching television.
  • Have children help and contribute to grocery shopping, food preparation and cooking. Teaching children about proper nutrition is an important part of childhood obesity prevention.
  • Limit television, computer and video game time to one or two hours a day. All family members, including parents, should abide by the time limit.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Childhood obesity. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/obesity/#1.

National Food Service Management Institute. (2007). Preventing childhood obesity: Tips for Parents. Retrieved April 18, 2010, from http://www.health.state.ny.us/prevention/nutrition/resources/obparnts.htm.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Childhood obesity: Make weight loss a family affair. Retrieved April 18, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-obesity/fl00058.

Nemours Foundation. (2009). Overweight and obesity. Retrieved April 18, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/nutrition/overweight_obesity.html#.