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Overweight Kids

By Christian Anderson, M.D.

Too many of our kids are overweight and the problem is rapidly getting worse.  Fortunately, there are effective strategies available to reverse this trend.  If you have an overweight child, this article may help you to explore a path to better health. 

The problem: The United States has the highest obesity rates in the world. 2/3 of us over age 20 are overweight and 1/3 is categorized as obese.  We are consuming ever larger amounts of high-calorie foods and beverages and are burning ever fewer calories.  

The consequence:  Almost every serious health problem encountered in life is caused by or aggravated by being overweight. The life insurance industry recognized this decades ago when they published the first "ideal weight" tables. Overweight people are poor insurance risks.  Being overweight increases the risks of diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer, lung disease, arthritis and many other life threatening conditions. With rising weights we are seeing alarming increases in diabetes in young people, and already 1/4 of elementary and junior high age children are overweight.

How is this happening to our children? Our kid's eating habits have changed and they have too little physical activity.  They eat what we buy. They drink more soft drinks than ever and we buy it by the case. We buy treats and snacks and fast food and they eat them. We buy them things that make them less physically active: TV's, electronic games and computers. (Having a TV in a child's bedroom doubles their risk of obesity). We give them rides everywhere. In 1960 half of us walked to school- now less than 10% of students do. Daily physical education in school is a fraction of what it was even 20 years ago.

What to do...

There are some simple steps to take but we should start when our children are young;

  • Ask to see your child's growth chart; at Entira Family Clinics our computer can easily display these for you at every visit.
  • Ask your doctor what your BMI (basal metabolic index) is.  This also is calculated at every adult visit.  The single greatest risk factor for obesity in children is having an overweight parent.
  • Stop buying soft drinks.  There is no need for them in our diets.
  • Avoid fast food and high calorie snacks.  Eat at organized meal times.
  • Buy vegetables and fruits and incorporate them into regular meals.  It's no wonder that we fall far short of the recommended intake of these when we don't buy them.
  • Take the TV out of the kid's rooms.  Limit screen time to no more than 4 times the amount spent exercising.  Take family walks and other outings promoting activity; go to the community center or park instead of a movie theater.  Sign your kids up for a sport.  Family life should include activity periods every day.
  • Food Pyramid  During part of that screen time explore www.choosemyplate.gov.  There you will find individualized meal/recipe plans, food excercise advice and fun games for 6-11 year old children call My Pyramid Blast Off.

Let's lead our children on a path to better health!!!

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