Small lifestyle changes have a big impact in the fight against childhood obesity

By Giorgia Guidicelli | Illustration by Lee Caces

The Body Mass Index (BMI) uses one’s height and weight to measure body fat. Though not a diagnostic tool, the BMI can be used to screen for weight problems such as obesity.  Children, too, can be screened for obesity by the BMI adjusted for age. This tool can easily be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website for both adults and children.

The current obesity epidemic is associated with societal, commercial, technological, industrial, and financial factors. In addition, children whose parents are overweight or obese tend to have a greater chance of being overweight and obese themselves. Although these factors aren’t direct reasons as to why a person is obese, the environment we live in is very influential.

Not only can adults be obese, but children, too, are vulnerable to this condition. A constant energy imbalance is what causes obesity—when calories consumed exceed calories expended. Several comorbidities are linked to obesity such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. Obesity, along with these comorbidities, decreases a person’s quality of life.

Is childhood obesity preventable and curable without invasive treatments? Of course. It all boils down to small lifestyle changes.

  • Having fun while working out. One of the best ways to learn is by doing. So why not work out while learning how to play a new sport? This will definitely help increase a child’s energy expenditure as well as speed up his metabolism.
  • Move. After a meal, don’t allow your child to just sit back on the couch and watch TV. Encourage movement. Walk your dog to the park. Shoot some hoops. Kick a ball. Just move.
  • Limit screen time. In this technological generation, children (and adults) are so engrossed with their iPads, iPhones, televisions, computers, and games. Although they may have some positive attributes, limiting screen time to only 20 minutes per day will help children socialize and get active.
  • Being on a “diet” is temporary; changing your diet is not. A diet change happens when you decide to buy the healthier option at the grocery store. Increase the quality foods in your child’s diet; introduce whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables instead of food that just add up into “empty” calories. Empty calories are calorie-dense food and drinks that contain no nutrients such as sodas, refined fruit juices, and candy.
  • Plan your child’s meals before the week even starts. Having a menu and food prepared for the week gives you a schedule to follow. By doing this, you will be able to thoroughly think of healthier options instead of settling for the faster, cheaper, and often less healthier option. Remember: failing to plan is planning to fail.

All these changes accumulate to a healthier lifestyle for you and your child. These small life changes begin at home. Leading by example and practicing healthy choices can impact everyone in your surroundings.  Every one is capable of making these gradual life changes.