Childhood obesity in the United States is at 17%, triple the 5% it was in 1980. Furthermore, only 20% of young people eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Georgia, with 21.3% of children obese, is ranked the second worst state for childhood obesity, including Washington D.C. One third of children 10 to 17 in Georgia are overweight. This problem needs to be addressed immediately, because overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
The ultimate responsibility lies within the hands of the parents. It is crucial that parents talk to their children about their weight and health instead of simply ignoring it. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provides several resources to help guide parents through this difficult subject. They suggest avoiding words like fat, chubby and big-boned. Instead, parents should focus on healthy habits, family participation, activities, simple goals and progress. Remember that weight loss is a result of healthy living habits, so the positive behavior needs to be emphasized instead of the problem of weight.
Discussing health with children should not be reserved for kids with weight problems. Healthy children need to be given the resources to maintain a healthy life as they grow into independence. Additionally, parents have difficulty recognizing their children as overweight. Research by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta found that two thirds of parents classified their overweight children as normal.
There are many health risks associated with childhood obesity, even problems that are normally attributed to older people. Nearly one in four teens between 12 and 19 has either diabetes or the precursor condition known as pre-diabetes, according to the CDC. High blood pressure and cholesterol can cause lasting organ damage, leading to possible heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular disease later in life. Additionally, research published in the journal Child Development found that obese students scored lower on math tests than their non-obese peers.
By simple lifestyle changes this growing obesity trend can be reversed. Since September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, take this opportunity to talk to your children. The younger you instill the value of a healthy lifestyle; the better off your children will be in the long run.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: http://www.choa.org/