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Childhood Obesity reaches all-time high

English: McDonald's patron, 2006.

By all accounts childhood obesity is now heading toward epidemic proportions. In fact to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 12.5 million children 2 to 19 are obese. This is tough news for all parents who are struggling every day to help their kids be healthy, eat right and maintain a sensible weight. Even parents who aren’t obsessed about weight or too concerned with appearance recognize the benefits of a healthy weight and lowering childhood obesity.

Most parents I know have agreed not to mention the word diet or talk too much about losing weight in front of their kids. No one wants to create additional food issues, but we all struggle to help our kids stay healthy. Whether it’s increased health problems such as diabetes, severe heart conditions or psychological issues, obesity is a problem. Add the additional peer and social pressures or the issues of self-esteem and it’s enough to make parents lose sleep at night.

Many parents are asking what they can do to eliminate childhood obesity. This is a tough question, and the solution is not easy, especially if your child is older and has access to food without your supervision or control. Obviously, there are simple steps. For instance, buying healthy foods, cooking at-home dinners, avoiding fast food and soda and making exercise a fun family experience can all help.

Most experts agree that the main issue for many kids, one which has greatly increased childhood obesity, is a child's sedentary lifestyle. I remember never really considering what I ate, but my friends and I spent all day outside playing or participating in a sport practicing three hours per day. Not my kids. It’s a good day when I can get them outside for one hour of physical activity and limit their video game time to one hour per day.

What many people have started to do is evaluate what healthy families do. If the whole family can take on a healthier lifestyle it is a win/win for everyone. If the whole family eats well than the one child with the issue doesn’t feel like they are singled out. How about a long walk after dinner or a trip to the park for a quick basketball game? Make the activity fun and get the whole family involved and it can be fun and memory building.

Focus on getting your child to listen to their body. With my children I suggest taking five minutes and determine if they really feel hungry or are they just bored.  Experts agree that focusing simply on the number of the scale is not a good idea either and can sometime encourage eating disorders or starvation diets which may be detrimental to a person’s health in the long-run and make it difficult to sustain a healthy weight long-term.

What has become increasingly clear to me as a mom is that many kids won’t do the right thing on their own. It will take discipline and encouragement and a little tough love to have them try healthy foods. I also have to stay strong and say no to the repeated requests for junk food. It also may take more than just a verbal no to get at the deeper issues that drive many kids to eat. Finding the root cause of the behavior and substituting healthier alternatives is not easy, but in the long run, it can literally save your child’s life.
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