As weight has continued to increase, so have the risks for chronic diseases, making this a pressing issue. Over the last three decades, a lot has changed about the way we live our lives, and many of those changes have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of children (and adults) who are overweight or obese. Behavior, family environment, and genetics all play a role in childhood obesity, so there are many areas that we can influence in order to reverse the alarming trends we’re seeing. Check out some facts and figures and get some tips about ways to make healthy, active choices for yourself and your family.
What’s overweight and what’s obese?
Children with a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th-95th percentile (for age and sex) are considered overweight. Those at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese. It’s not always easy to determine if a child is at a healthy weight. In fact, a study conducted in the UK recently found that 70% of parents of overweight children were unaware that their child’s weight is unhealthy. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns, or are unsure if your child is at a healthy weight.
Since 1980, Childhood obesity rates have TRIPLED in the United States, and now 1 in 3 kids in the U.S. is overweight or obese. And in Kansas? 1 in 3 kids is overweight or obese.
What has changed?
If we compare some of the ways lifestyles were different 30 years ago from lifestyles today, it’s a little bit easier to understand why we are seeing such an increase in unhealthy weight.
Dietary Habits THEN
- Portion sizes were ￼sensible
- Meals were prepared at home, usually from scratch.
- Kids usually only ate 1 snack per day
- Families ate meals together at the table
Dietary Habits NOW
- Portion sizes are 5x BIGGER
- Fast food is cheap (and everywhere), so it is chosen regularly
- 1 out of 5 kids eat 6 snacks per day
- We eat in front of the TV, on the run, and rarely as a family
- Kids ran around and played outside before dinner.
- Kids walked or rode a bike to school.
- Recess and gym-class took place on most days of the week.
- After school sports and after-school sports were free or inexpensive.
- Kids spend 7.5 hours per day (on average) in front of screens.
- Kids ride to school in cars and buses.
- Many schools now offer recess only at lunch.
- Kids get an average of 60 minutes per week of P.E., which is about 32% of the amount they need to be healthy.
- Sports and after-school activities can be costly.
Why Does It Matter?
Childhood obesity increases the risk for some medical conditions such as:
- type 2 Diabetes
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- asthma week,
- sleep apnea
- liver disease
And psychological conditions such as:
- being teased
- low self-esteem
- poor body image
Join the Movement!
Learn how you can help, or make healthy changes in your own life.
Establishing Healthy Habits
Making healthy choices in your family might be easier than you think! Just remember 5-2-1-0 every day:
5- or more fruits and veggies
2- hours or less of screen-time
1- hour of physical activity
0- sodas or sugary drinks
We all have a responsibility to help improve the health of our children. Getting started can be as simple as setting a good example through our own behaviors, and helping our children learn healthy habits of their own. Here are some ideas to help you make a new or different healthy choice: Click here for a printable goal worksheet tips for how you can get 5-2-1-0 every day!
5 or more fruits and veggies
- Make 1/2 your plate fruits and veggies
- Add some color – try to eat as many different colors of fruits and veggies as you can
- Have snacks on hand that kids can have any- time, like fresh fruit.
- Try new fruits and veggies, and get creative
- Plan a menu for the week, and include some dinners or meals that kids can help prepare
2 hours or less of screen-time
- Do jumping jacks to break up TV time. During commercial breaks, see if you can do more jumping jacks than you did during the last commercial break.
- Turn off the TV during meals and share some family time.
- Take a walk as a family after dinner
- Prioritize screen-time. Set goals for decreasing the amount of time spent using electronic media.
1 hour of physical activity
- Break up screen time with physical activity
- Take the dog for a walk
- Play tag
- Race a friend to the end of the block
- Join a sports team
- Ride a bike or walk to school
- Walk as a family to run errands at places that aren’t too far from your house
0 sodas or sugary drinks
- Drink lots of water each day
- Be aware of sweetened beverages, including fruit juice
- Get creative with your water. Add fresh lemon, strawberries, or other fruits to add flavor with-out sugar.
- Drink your water from a fun glass or container.
- Switch to skim or low fat milk
Resources For Parents and Families
- Your Associates in Family Medicine, P.A. Family Practitioner