September is Children's Health Awareness month. Making it the perfect time to shed light on a sensitive, yet incredibly important topic - childhood obesity.
In the United States today more than 13.7 million children between the ages of 2 and 19 have been identified as being obese, which is roughly 18.5% of the U.S. adolescent population.
Obesity in a pediatric population is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC’s recommended weight for age and sex.
These numbers are reflective of both genders and all ethnicities.
Factors that affect childhood obesity include: access to healthy food choices, lack of physical activity and lack of knowledge of meal planning and general nutrition concepts.
Lack of physical activity is a large issue when it comes to childhood obesity. Many children spend their free time inside the home playing video games, watching television, surfing the internet and being glued to their smart phones engaging with social media.
These activities have replaced physical activities, resulting in lower daily calorie expenditure for the child (fewer daily calories burned overall).
However, limiting caloric intake for growing children may not be the best choice. Children need a certain amount of calories for optimal growth.
A child may not be an over eater, but rather an under exerciser. It is very important to encourage physical activity for a growing child, and to focus on nutrient dense, high-quality food choices to properly nourish and fuel them for growth.
Teaching children proper nutrition is very important to do at a young age. Eating habits can become learned behavior, so teaching a child about proper nutrition and exercise while the are young, sets them up for success long term.
Food should not be used as a reward for children when they get good grades or have good behavior. Doing this creates an unhealthy relationship around food.
Most Importantly, do not berate or belittle a child for excess weight as this behavior can create food issues for the child in the forms of disordered eating, such as anorexia, bulimia (binging and purging cycle) and orthorexia (obsessive behavior around food).
Below are tips for creating an environment of behavior that supports a healthy weight and well-being.