Child Is Obese? – Obesity Awareness Month
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which casts a spotlight on a major health concern for children and their parents. Children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems. Children who have obesity face more bullying and stigma than their non-obese peers.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites 1 of every 5 (17%) children in the United States as being obese; the US Department of Health and Human Services shares an even more sobering statistic – 1 in 3 children have obesity.
Common factors contributing to obesity are:
- Too much time spent in sedentary activities such as television viewing
- Poor bedtime routines – children ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep per night; 43% of boys in this age group sleep less than the recommended amount
- A lack of community places to get adequate physical activity
- Easy access to inexpensive, high calorie snacks and beverages
- Poor access to affordable, healthier foods
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to define childhood overweight and obesity.
Because children’s body composition varies as they age and varies between boys and girls, your child’s pediatrician will focus on the BMI percentile(s) on a gender specific graph chart, rather than a specific range of numbers.
Being Overweight & Obesity
Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.
Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.
BMI is not a foolproof measure of overall health – an active, muscular child or teen with a lower body fat percentage may place them in the overweight or obese category. Discuss your child’s weight, height, BMI, and family history with his/her Pediatrician to get an overall picture of their health.
Fortunately, obesity in children can be prevented.
Here are some tips to keep your child healthy:
- Have them in bed by 9 pm – especially for kids who have an early start to the school day and are awake at 6 am
- Limit screen time-TV, smartphones, tablets, video games, and computers- to LESS than 2 hours. The less they watch, the less sedentary they will be.
- There’s no great secret to healthy eating. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein
- Serve age-appropriate portions
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat
- Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Children imitate adults – start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:
- Brisk walking
- Playing tag
- Jumping rope
- Playing soccer
- If your child is in day care or an after-school program, talk to the child care provider(s) about maintaining healthy habits when your child is away from home.
Dr. Abha Sharma MD, IBCLC is a Board Certified Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant. She practices and resides in Southern California with her husband and toddler daughter. Her interests are healthy living and eating, reading fashion and lifestyle magazines, and of course, all things lactation.