Obesity has been a problem in America for a long time. Since Covid-19 glued everyone to their computer screens, this has never been truer. Unfortunately, children and teenagers are just as susceptible to obesity as anyone else.
According to the CDC, obesity impacts about twenty percent of adolescents—millions of children who may suffer a lifetime of weight-related health issues if the problem is not corrected.
By making changes to your family’s lifestyle, you can help your children maintain a healthy weight, and establish good habbits that will last a lifetime.
The concept of putting a child on a diet may seem foreign and indeed unhealthy. But while calorie counting and Atkins might not be right for a twelve-year-old, a general understanding of nutrition certainly is. Adolescent food culture naturally stacks the deck against healthiness in children.
To see evidence of this one needs only to scan the children’s menu at the nearest restaurant. Most likely, they will find plenty of fried food and not a lot of vegetables. The same goes for school cafeterias, where vending machines are packed with candies, sodas, and chips.
Kids have ample access to unhealthy food, and they also have little to no concept of why they shouldn’t eat it. Conversations about health and nutrition can go a long way towards helping your child kick off a lifetime’s worth of healthy eating habits. Explain what fruits and vegetables do for their bodies. Stock your house with healthy snacks, and avoid buying sodas, chips, and other processed foods.
It’s also important to keep in mind that small changes can have large impacts over time when it comes to fighting obesity. For example, if you replace one soda, and one snack-sized bag of chips with a bottle of water and carrots, every day, your kids can save thousands of calories, and hundreds of grams of fat over the course of a month.
When it comes to nutrition, sustainability is key. Help your child build healthy habits so that they can have a good relationship with food.
Limit Screen Time
Children are also disadvantaged by their schedules. Though at least an hour of physical activity is recommended every day for children and teenagers, life doesn’t always arrange itself to allow for this. Kids spend eight hours sleeping, eight hours at school, and a few more with homework, extracurriculars, and friends.
The brief window of time that remains typically goes to screens. Children spend several hours on their phones every day, and an additional several hours parked in front of the television.
One of the best ways to get children to be more active is simply to limit screen time. If kids can find a couple of extra hours in their schedule, they will have significantly more opportunities for physical activity.
It’s important to establish exercise as a daily part of your children’s lives. While reducing screen time may be a great step towards a healthier lifestyle, it won’t do much if you don’t follow it up with concrete changes to your routine. Consider scheduling times for the entire family to get active each day.
These could be simple, fun activities. Tennis in the park. A family walk. Soccer, baseball, basketball. The activity itself is less important than making sure that you just do something.
The family component of this measure establishes a level of accountability. It also normalizes exercise. The routine element is equally important. It can take months to form a habit, but once it is established it tends to become automatic. If you can get your children to reflexively be physically active every day, it will go a long way towards reducing their chance of experiencing obesity.
Find a Sport
School athletics are a great way to naturally encourage your children to get several hours of exercise each day. Athletes experience the risk of obesity at a significantly lower rate than the rest of the population. They also have lower instances of heart disease, and other health issues that are associated with obesity.
Granted, sports may not be for everyone. However, most schools do have a wide range of options to choose from. If it turns out there aren’t any appropriate options for your child at their school, consider widening your search to club sports and social clubs that emphasize physical activity. For example, if your children are interested in animals, you might consider finding them a nature club that takes regular hikes.
It’s much easier to get children to exercise when it is linked to an activity that they enjoy.