What You Probably Don’t Know About Childhood Obesity

We’ve all heard about childhood obesity, we all know it’s a big problem, but do we really? You probably didn’t know that 1 in 5 children in the US are obese. Mind you, that statistic doesn’t say “overweight,” it says “obese.” The difference between obesity and being overweight is defined by Body Mass Index (BMI). A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Overweight is defined by a BMI of 25-29.9. This month is National Childhood obesity month, so we thought it important to talk about the current state of childhood obesity and what we can do to help the situation.

Let’s Start with Some Facts

-Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease.

-Children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers, and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.

-In the long term, childhood obesity is associated with having obesity as an adult, which is linked to serious conditions and diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several types of cancer.

(Source: CDC)

What Can I Do to Help in My Family?

Lead by example with an active lifestyle.

The most important thing any of us can do to get the youngsters in our families more motivated to get active is to lead by example. Talk to them about what you’re doing to stay active, how cool paddle boarding is, or how you recently broke your PR. They listen and they see.

Lead by example with healthy nutrition choices.

Leading by example also means making more thoughtful choices about your nutrition. Change their mindset. Sure, a burger can be described as juicy and delicious, but so could a fresh watermelon. A candy bar can be considered a reward, but so could taking the time to make a healthy homemade pizza together. Treats and unhealthy snacks are too often used to reward or occupy children. Make the smarter choice for them now, and they’ll be more inclined to do the same for themselves when the time comes.

Get them involved!

Make the 20 minutes before or after dinner time to play catch outside or break out the old Wii and play a few rounds of tennis (you’ll seriously break a sweat). Don’t let punishments interfere with active time; the dog can always use a walk, and when is there not yard work to be done?

Set them up for success.

Did you know that our very own instructor, Erin G, is a certified sports nutritionist with the American Council on Exercise? She was kind enough to drop some knowledge on us on the subject of childhood obesity:

The guardian needs to choose what kind of snacks are available at home and when snacks are allowed. Then, the child will choose which snack from the cupboard they want and how much they eat. Giving kids power and control is important, as is establishing rules and setting a precedent for what is available.”

Additional facts from Erin’s certification class:

“By the age of three most American children are tending to eat for reason other than hunger–because they are bored, because something looks good, because someone else is eating, etc.”

“Another sad fact is that most commercials on kids networks are for sugary non-nutrient dense food.”

What Can I Do to Help in Omaha?

Obesity isn’t a disease children are born with or something they choose, it’s something that we as a community can prevent. It’s a touchy subject; how does someone start to make a change? You can start by advocating for those with few options and information.

There is a strong correlation between poverty and childhood obesity. A child raised among lower socioeconomic circumstances has a higher likelihood of being obese.

(Source: stateofobesity.org)

Volunteer at a Local Foodbank

Foodbank for the Heartland offers great volunteering shifts that won’t interfere with your work schedule. Help sorting food or packing backpacks full of nutritious snacks for local kids in need. Just once a week for a couple of hours and you can help families have access to healthier options.

Get Involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands

Becoming a Big is a great way to advocate for a child in your community and be a mentor to them. The majority of children in BBBS are in homes below the poverty level. Leading by example and helping them make healthier choices takes as little as 3-4 visits each month.

Thank you for being part of the solution during National Childhood Obesity Month and beyond. Whether you’re a parent or not, you probably have a little someone looking up to you; wanting to be like you. Make sure you put your healthy foot forward.