We all know that obesity is a major problem in the United States. According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9 million children in this country are obese. And the government spends over $147 million dollars annually on hospitalizations due to medical conditions associated with childhood obesity.
But the issue hits home for parents who watch helplessly as their children begin to gain excessive weight and ultimately reach the point of being diagnosed as obese. Fear, sadness, depression and loss of control may describe their daily lives. Obesity also takes a toll on the physical health of the child who may be diagnosed as having diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and a number of other conditions that were once considered adult onset diseases.
If your child is so unfortunate as to become obese, it is important to focus on what could be done to reverse the problem. You should know that your child does not have to life the rest of his life as an obese person. It will take a great deal of effort to turn things around, but where there is a will there is a way.
You will need to work closely with your child's pediatrician and a registered dietitian to design a weight management plan that is uniquely suited to meet your child's need. In some cases, a number of other healthcare professionals may be there to help.
Keep in mind that diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related chronic diseases could be fatal. So, it is important for you and the whole family to keep a positive attitude and make some critical changes to your son's diet and lifestyle habits. Your doctor might recommend eating enough to lose a small amount of weight monthly, to stop weight gain or to slow the amount of weight gained to see if height will catch up with weight, thus reducing the BMI to within an acceptable range. Whatever the advice, work with a registered dietitian for the best results.
Here are a few tips:
· Teach your child to make healthy food choices from early on.
· Teach your child what are the right size portions for their age.
· Make sure that you stock fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grain breads and cereal and other nutritious foods that your child can have when he or she needs a snack.
· Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Keep in mind that food does more than please the taste buds or fill the stomach. Food must provide the nutrients that your child needs for healthy growth. The earlier your child begins eating the healthy way, the greater the chances of preventing childhood obesity.
About the Author
Dr. Dorene E. Carter is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with over 25 years of experience in teaching, counseling, training, project development and writing. Dr. Carter earned her PhD in nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley and is currently President & CEO of CHANA Project, the Child Health and Nutrition Access Project.