Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States. In fact, the number of children affected by obesity has increased more than 200% since 1980. Today, more than 18% of children are obese, making this condition one of the most common — and preventable — health issues in the U.S. Unfortunately, early obesity could lead to a variety of health issues later in life.
Children who are overweight are more likely to remain overweight as they age, increasing their chances of developing a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Knowing the risks, there’s no better time to learn more about this serious condition and how you can help protect your child from other health issues in the future.
This infographic was created by Kids Car Donations, a Dallas car donation program
Is My Child Obese?
Parents may find it difficult to determine if their child is obese, as not all children who carry extra weight are considered obese or even overweight. The natural stages of development can cause a child’s body to hold varying amounts of fat. However, obesity in children is generally measured by body mass index (BMI), a measurement calculated using height and weight.
BMI-for-age percentiles are the favored assessment among doctors used to evaluate a child’s weight status. Various BMI charts can be found online to help determine if your child may be overweight or obese. It’s important to visit a physician if you think your little one may be putting on an excessive amount of weight.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity can be caused by a variety of psychological, socioeconomic and experiential factors. The following are a few key determinants that could lead to childhood obesity.
- Family history of obesity: A child from a family with overweight members is predisposed to become overweight. This could be due to the home environment or genetics.
- Lack of exercise: Kids who do not exercise often are more likely to become overweight because they are not burning enough calories in a day.
- Poor diet: A diet rich in high-calorie foods could lead to childhood obesity. Sugary drinks, candy, fast food and baked goods are examples of high-calorie foods.
- Psychological factors: Stress at home or school might put a child at risk for developing obesity. Children may overeat to deal with certain emotions or indulge in unhealthy foods to soothe anxieties.
A number of additional factors — such as socioeconomic standing, metabolism and level of nutritional knowledge — could lead to childhood obesity as well. It is important for parents to understand what may be causing a child’s condition, so they can help him or her reach and maintain a healthier weight.
Treating and Preventing Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is often treatable and preventable. It doesn’t matter if the child is currently at a healthy weight or has become overweight — parents can take a number of actions to help manage their children’s health and well-being. As much as possible:
- Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy, fresh foods instead of high-calorie or processed snacks
- Limit screen time and encourage kids to engage in sports and physical activities
- Understand appropriate portion sizes for your child’s age
- Focus on superior health, not a specific number on a scale
- Eat more meals at home and fewer at restaurants
It’s important for families to work as a unit, openly discussing and practicing proper nutrition — without shaming or judging. Healthy habits displayed among parents are typically reflected in their children. It is a parent’s job to guide their kids and set limits regarding unhealthy habits.
Typically, it is much easier to prevent childhood obesity than reverse unhealthy habits. The obesity problem in the United States is one that can be stopped, and much of the epidemic’s fate is in the hands of American parents.