Obesity Is Preventable

Connecting with Your Health Care Provider

When it comes to cutting childhood obesity off at the pass, your first step is not to point fingers. Obesity arises from a variety of factors. Self-blame is not only unproductive, but also unfounded. Once you’ve kicked the blame to the curb, you’re ready to move forward in a strategic manner. It’s time to visit your child’s health care provider.

During the visit, your health care provider may perform blood sugar and cholesterol tests. He or she will also be looking for some background information from you. For example, be prepared to provide information about your family’s medical history, your child’s eating habits and activity levels and any medications your child already takes.

Don’t think that the conversation is a one-sided chat, though. This is also your chance to ask questions. Consider asking your provider for access to education materials on childhood obesity, things you can do at home to help your child and what treatment options are available.

For young children under 7, future chances of growth might make the goal of those treatment options to maintain weight rather than losing it. Obese children older than 7 and adolescents will likely have slow weight-loss goals — maybe 1 pound a week or even a month.

To achieve these goals, lifestyle changes — improved diet and increased physical activity — will come into play. Although medications are available, they aren’t commonly used for children and adolescents. In addition, surgical avenues are reserved for special circumstances — adolescents who are extremely obese and previously unsuccessful in their weight-loss efforts. Throughout treatment, also keep in mind that fad diets and so-called quick fixes are dangerous for your child. Instead, together with your health care provider, you can move forward with safe, effective weight management tactics.

So what lifestyle changes, or healthy habits, are linked with getting the upper hand on your child’s weight?

Succeeding with Healthy Habits

Turning a blind eye to a child’s excess weight and planning to address it later means that he or she will face a battle with the scale well into adulthood. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of being an obese or overweight adult.

The best time to try to turn things around is right now. And you can find motivation by taking a look at statistics from the other side. Take one study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Harvard University. Researchers there showed that when overweight girls from a study group of 110,000 lost weight before growing up, they didn’t just lose pounds — they also lowered their chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

The two best steps to take for getting to your goal are to improve your child’s diet and increase physical activity. Your health care provider can give you detailed guidance, but below are a few diet and activity suggestions to get you started:

•Watch portion sizes and limit access to foods high in sugar.

•Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet.

•Select whole-grain foods.

•Target healthy protein sources through beans, fish, poultry or lean meat.

•Create opportunities for a variety of exercises that are fun, such as dancing, swimming, hiking and jumping rope.

•Limit sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games.

•Make it a family affair; get everyone moving together.

Looking for other ideas on nutrition and physical activity? Check out the United States Department of Agriculture’s Choosemyplate.gov and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program.

Addressing your child’s health now will lead to a lifetime of sound choices. But you’ll also be helping everyone in the family, and together, you can achieve your goal of a healthier life.