Childhood Obesity: It’s About More Than Size
Pandemic habits of staying home and snacking more didn’t help anyone’s waistlines, and that includes kids.
Childhood obesity was already a serious problem in the US, where it was found to affect about 14.4 million or 19.3% of all children and adolescents in 2017-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Obesity Versus Overweight
Obesity is not the same thing as being overweight. Any child above the 95th percentile of weight for their age is considered obese. That means a 10-year-old boy of average height (56 inches) who weighs 102 pounds would have a BMI in the 95th percentile with a BMI greater than 95% of similar boys.
Children from the 5th to less than 85th percentile are considered of healthy weight. From 85th to less than 95th is considered overweight.
Obesity isn’t just about size, it’s about health. The 95th percentile and above was chosen for obesity because that is the level at which a child is more likely to be at risk of developing:
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol (risk factors for heart disease)
- Increased risk type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance
- Breathing problems (asthma, sleep apnea)
- Joint problems/musculoskeletal discomfort
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, gastro-esophageal reflux (heartburn)
Being obese can also be hard on kids emotionally and has been found to be related to anxiety and depression, risk of being bullied socially and low self-esteem and self-reported quality of life.
How to Create Healthy Habits
Turning around the habits that can lead to obesity is a family project which should be led by parents. Your health care provider can provide the education you need to make healthier choices. Things parents can do to encourage positive habits include:
- Limiting electronics to no more than 2 hours a day.
- Encouraging at least one hour of physical activity each day.
- Making nutritious meals and limiting snacks between meals.
- Preparing and eating meals together as a family.
- Planning family time to play active games or sports.
- Making sure kids get enough sleep; lack of sleep is related to weight gain.
- Being a positive role model by practicing all of the above.
Don’t wait, start today. It’s much harder to get weight under control the older you get. The healthy habits you adopt as a family today will benefit your children’s health well into adulthood – and it’s good for you, too.