Time to untip the scales

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Let me share a few facts with you:

  • One in three American children is overweight or obese.
  • Billions of dollars are spent every year treating obesity-related conditions.
  • Public health experts say this generation of children is on track to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

I (like you may already have done) read these facts in a news story about Michelle Obama’s new campaign against childhood obesity called “Let’s Move.” And they shocked me. And I was shocked that they shocked me. I work in a pediatric hospital. I write about programs whose sole purpose is to treat childhood obesity. I hear these facts all the time. I should be used to them by now.

But daily seeing so many children who have no control over their diseases or injuries or the ability to cure them has made me sensitive to an epidemic that could be resolved with positive habits.

Dr. Jon Oden, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s who works in the Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health (COACH) Clinic, says the best way to combat pediatric obesity is early prevention. Instead of waiting until your child has become obese and begun suffering negative health effects like Type 2 diabetes, it’s better to instill healthy routines that prevent your child from becoming obese in the first place.

Not easy but simple
As I’ve written here in a previous blog, I struggled with weight issues as a child. I know that kids don’t decide to be fat. Some of us are naturally disposed to being overweight or obese. Overcoming that requires supernatural discipline. And parents don’t always have the time to monitor their kids’ diet and activity. Simply put: Preventing obesity isn’t easy. On the other hand, the steps to take are not complex.

A new study that will be published in the March issue of Pediatrics suggests that three simple home habits go a long way toward preventing preschoolers from becoming obese:

  1. Eating the evening meal as a family five or more nights a week.
  2. Getting more than 10.5 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Watching less than two hours of TV, video or DVDs a day.

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