Do You Know the Truth About Your Child’s Weight?
According to the CDC, one in six children tip the scales as obese. But ask moms and dads instead, and you might get a different story. A study found that nearly half of parents underestimate heavy kids’ weight.
No parent wants to label a child “fat.” However, failing to face the truth can have real consequences for your son’s or 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 study found.
From there, kids’ weight fate may largely be set. Compared with their normal-weight peers, overweight 5-year-olds have quadruple the risk of becoming obese. And heavy teens usually don’t outgrow the phase. They become overweight adults and face increased risks for heart disease, type 2 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—the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends doctors conduct obesity screenings for children and teens ages 6 and older and offer behavioral interventions as necessary. 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 be overweight or obese. Preschoolers typically need 10 to 13 hours per day, school-age children need nine to 12 hours, and teens need eight to 10. 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. Encourage activities they enjoy, like playing tag, jumping rope, or basketball. The benefits to kids’ bones, self-esteem, and waistlines can extend for years.
Quit the clean plate club. Research shows that parents often encourage their children to finish all their food, but this pressure does not improve eating habits or health. 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.
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