For the first time in a couple of decades, childhood obesity rates have showed a “slight but significance” decline. According to the CDC’s latest Vital Signs Report, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the US Virgin islands showed a decrease of at least one percentage point in obesity rates. Only three states reported an actual increase in obesity: Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
This is good news for the long haul as well, since obese children are five times more likely to be overweight as adults, which leads to a plethora of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Social Effects of Childhood Obesity
While most of us are aware that certain physical ailments are the direct result of childhood obesity, there are other, perhaps more ominous consequences we should consider. According to a study by Tees University, obesity in children is disturbingly far reaching. The authors of the study concluded that problems such as behavioral problems in school, mental health issues, family dissolution, and “greater community dissonance” can be directly tracked back to childhood obesity.
These dire statistics emphasize the seriousness of complacency regarding this issue. The good news is that even though the problem influences many facets of a child’s life, there are some simple ways to ensure our children can lead healthier lives.
The Importance of Physical Activity
Combatting childhood obesity can be as “simple” as restricting the amount of time our kids spend playing video games and watching television. This can be challenging, but doable. Rachel H., a mom in Northwest Arkansas reports that in order to make sure her kids get enough exercise, she bites the bullet and goes outside WITH them. She holds “races” by timing how long it takes her kids to run around the house.
Let’s face it, young children want to be around their parents, and by going outside with them, we can kill two birds with one stone.
Inclimate weather? There are ways around that, too. When my kids were younger, I put on the soundtrack from the movie Rainman and we danced together through about half of it.
Healthier Eating Choices
The other side of the obesity equation is, of course, how healthily we feed our children. Following are some suggestions to help them learn to actually like healthy foods:
- Be sneaky. Most kids love comfort foods like spaghetti and macaroni and cheese. Kim N., mother of five, dices fresh vegetables such as broccoli and caroots and “hides” them in spaghetti sauce and mac-n-cheese.
- Instead of focusing on making sure their diets are balanced on a daily basis, it might be easier to focus on a balanced week. This allows for a trip to McDonald’s every once in awhile. Also, kids have a tendency to “fixate” on a particular food item, such as wanting peanut butter and jelly for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Focusing on an entire week makes this less of a “big deal.”