Childhood obesity has been declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A disease is declared an epidemic when it has developed and spread very rapidly and extensively. In other words then, childhood obesity is taking the world—especially the Western, world by storm. The CDC cites statistics like, ‘Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years’ or ‘in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.’ These are staggering statistics and you maybe wondering how you can help to protect your child from this epidemic.
The are many ways, suggested by the CDC, parents can help prevent or better control the issue of overweight or obesity in their children:
- Become good role models. As parents, we know all to well that children do what they see us do, not what we tell them to do. If you want your children to eat right, then you have to let them see you practicing good eating habits. Also, let them see you engaging in regular physical activity. Mahatma Gandhi says, “Be the change you want to see in the world” (your children).
- Encourage healthy eating. One way you can encourage healthy eating is to ensure healthy options are readily available to your children. Ensure you have plenty of fruits in sight, low fat milk and yogurt, limit consumption of sugary beverages and remove high calorie temptations.
- Keep children active. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that children should engage in at least 60 minutes of activity everyday. By nature, children are full of energy; so, provide safe environments for them to expend some of this energy. Take them bike riding, let them play Frisbee with the dog, sign them up for soccer or a dance class. There are so many activities to choose from. Ask them what they would like to do and get them involved in it.
- Reduce sedentary time. This simply means reduce the amount of time your child is sitting. If we were to calculate the amount of time our children spend in front of a screen, we would be flabbergasted. It is suggested that some children spend up to 5-7 hours in front of a screen—television, computers, smart phones, electronic games, kindles etc. Try to limit the amount of screen time to about 2 hours a day.
Whatever method you use to manage your child’s weight, be sure it is done in a fun way; not a rigid way that will encourage them to rebel.