Childhood Obesity: Contributing Factors and How to Fight It

We know your child’s health and wellness are two of the most important things to you as a parent.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, an opportune time to talk about the health issue affecting one in every five children in the United States. This month, we’re aiming to educate our readers on the causes and implications of childhood obesity, as well as ways to avoid it.

Long Term Effects

Twenty years ago, type 2 diabetes was rarely seen in children, but there has been a significant climb in cases throughout the 2000s. A study called SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth, conducted from 2002 to 2012, found there was a 4.8% increase in newly diagnosed cases of Type 2 diabetes in children each year.

What’s caused the consistent uptick over the years can be attributed to many different factors, including an increase in fast food, technology, portion size, and more. However, equally as important as what is how—how childhood obesity can have a lifelong effect on someone’s health.

Along with mental health issues, low self-esteem, and an unhealthy relationship with food, obesity can follow children into adulthood and cause serious health problems, including:

  • Fatty liver disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Orthopedic issues

Because of these risks, correcting the problem at a young age can be crucial for their health.

Factors and Influences

While genetics, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices can play a role, there are many different factors when it comes to childhood obesity, and essentially any child can be at risk.

A child is considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile for children their same age and gender, and obese if it’s in the 95th percentile. In 2019, there were approximately 13.7 million children and adolescents in America who are obese. To calculate you or your child’s BMI, click here.

Most people associate obesity with excess, and while overeating is definitely a factor, some of the biggest influences on a child’s weight stem from what’s lacking.

Examples include:

  • Not getting enough restful sleep
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Not having safe places to go in the community to get physical activity
  • Not having access to affordable, healthier foods
  • Not getting balanced meals at home

The good news is most of these influences in a child’s life can change for the better with the help of an adult!

Fighting Childhood Obesity

When approaching the topic of obesity or weight with your child, it’s important to convey your words from a loving and supportive place, as they may feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Here are ways you can help your child maintain a healthy BMI:

1. Make your weight a priority

Kids can learn a great deal by watching their parent’s actions. By committing to a healthy lifestyle yourself, your child will be influenced to create healthy habits as well.

2. Clean up your grocery list

Children generally eat what’s provided for them, so focusing on the nutritional value of the food you’re stocking the fridge and pantry with can make a significant difference. Eliminating foods and drinks high in sugar and fat from your grocery list will ensure the whole family eats healthier at home. For menu plans, shopping tips, and healthy recipes endorsed by the CDC, click here.

3. Set boundaries

A study published in February found that children in America ages 8-12 average 4-6 hours of screen time a day, while teens spend up to 9 hours. Although screens can be useful learning tools, spending too much time on them creates a sedentary daily routine. Establish a health-oriented schedule with clear hours set for physical activity to promote a more active life.

4. Make it fun

Kids will respond better to healthy lifestyle changes if it’s fun. Joining a Little League team or signing up for swim classes are great ways for children to get exercise and socialize while being entertained!

5. Take away the pressure

Ditch the “Clean Plate Club” and try not to insist they need to eat a certain amount. Rewarding a child for eating or withholding something until they finish everything on their plate can embed long-term overeating habits.

Texarkana Emergency Center & Hospital encourages parents and children to invest in their health by sticking to a healthy diet and exercising frequently. If you’re concerned about your child’s health, due to weight or other circumstances, our lab testing capabilities and complete metabolic profiles can provide valuable insight.

The Texarkana Emergency Center & Hospital community can rest assured they’ll always be in good hands with our highly trained staff of doctors and nurses ready to help. In the case of an accident or medical emergency, our premier facility is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Texarkana Emergency Center & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Texarkana Emergency Center & Hospital, or any one of our concierge-level, medical facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve.