If you have a child who is either overweight or obese it’s important to take seriously the message to help your school age child eat healthier and be more active. I’d like to share my own story with you as "food for thought."
When I was in elementary school I was quite overweight and the kids teased me and made me cry. Today I’m committed to regular exercise, make good food choices most of the time, and am at a healthy weight. So what happened to me back then? Obesity is a complex issue for each person. For me it was a combination of boredom because my mother was away at work, watching too much TV instead of going outside to play, and not having the best choices for snacks at home. Fortunately, I wanted my life to change and my mother helped me learn how to make better food choices. As I began to lose weight I became more active and an added bonus was that I felt like I had more friends at school. I liked the "new" me better and I never reverted back to those unhealthy behaviors.
Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate and has tripled in the last 30 years. One in six school aged children is now overweight. Nine out of ten parents polled by Consumer Reports said that childhood obesity is a problem in the United States, but when asked about their own child, 50 percent of parents with overweight kids failed to recognize the problem. If you’re not sure if your child is overweight or obese, your physician can help make that determination using a chart to plot height, weight and age.
No doubt you’ve seen articles about what to feed your child to be healthy. If you haven’t taken it to heart consider some of the things that your child may have to cope with if obesity becomes a reality.
A study just published recently showed that overweight and obese children miss more school days than normal and underweight kids. What was surprising is that the obese kids were absent due to the stigma and bullying of being overweight which in turn may set them up for future unhealthy behaviors. Missing school is as much about being a predictor of future drug use and increased pregnancy rates as it is about academic performance, which means it must be taken seriously.
There are numerous physiological consequences as well. High blood pressure used to be diagnosed mainly in adults but it’s becoming more common among kids. Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who aren’t and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease just like it is for adults. On the positive side it can be lowered with exercise and a healthy diet. If you’ve had your overweight child’s blood pressure checked, don’t assume all is well. It just means that there is still a greater chance it’ll be elevated when the child becomes an adult and along with it will come the risk of life-threatening conditions.
Set the stage for your children to have healthy adult lives. The old fashioned ways of eating well balanced meals and being active are still recommended to help your child grow to be a healthy adult. No matter the age of your child, today is not too late to get started. And don’t forget to be a good role model while you’re being your child’s cheerleader for good nutrition and exercise.