Do You Know the Truth About Your Child's Weight?
The latest government report says nearly one in six young people tip the scales as obese. But ask moms and dads instead, and you might get a different story. Nearly half of parents underestimate heavy kids' weight, a new study finds.
No parent wants to label a child "fat". However, failing to face the truth can have real consequences for your son of daughter's health. After all, if you don't see your child's problem, you're less likely to search for a solution.
Charting Obesity's Course
Why the disconnect between belief and reality? Media portraits of severely obese children may have tainted parents' views. Or, they may live in denial that the whole family needs to make healthy changes.
Another challenge: Obesity begins early. More than one-fourth of kindergartners already weigh in as overweight or obese, another new study finds.
From there, kids' weight fate may largely be set. According to Frank Chae, CM, FACS, a bariatric surgeon at Sky Ridge Medical Center, overweight 5-year-olds face quadruple the risk of growing into obese schoolchildren and teens, compared with their normal-weight peers. "And heavy teens usually don't outgrow the phase," he notes. "They typically become overweight adults and face increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems along the way.
Start Early to Plan a Lighter Future
Fortunately you don't have to sit by and watch this story unfold. Start by asking your pediatrician about obesity -- even when your child is a toddler. The doctor can calculate your child's body mass index, or BMI, and give you the facts about your little one's weight and health.
Pediatricians can also offer guidance about helping kids reach -- and maintain -- a healthy heft. For instance:
- Get serious about sleep. Children who don't log enough z's are more likely to e overweight. Preschoolers typically need 11 to 12 hours per day, school-aged children 10, and teens nine. Set a bedtime schedule -- and stick to it.
- Encourage exercise. Make physical activity as routine as eating and sleeping. Allow young children at least an hour a day to run around and play. As they grow, schedule structured activities they enjoy, like biking, swimming, or basketball. The benefits to kids' muscles, bones, and waistline can extend for years.
- Quit the clean plate club. Rewarding your child for eating more can lead to obesity down the line, recent research show. Instead encourage kids to eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. Cook and eat healthy meals together as often as possible.
For more tips on healthy choices for children visit: Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.