Childhood obesity is an epidemic that has become more prevalent in society with the increased access to fast food and processed food marketing.
Though kids tend to have fewer life-threatening illnesses than adults, overweight or obese children are likely to carry the weight and lifestyle habits into adulthood.
This can increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
In fact, about 33% of children in the United States are overweight, putting them at a much higher risk of obesity as adults.
How is Obesity Measured?
Obesity can be difficult to identify in childhood. The diagnosis is largely dependent on the Body Mass Index, which is a method that calculates a child’s weight category based on his or her age, weight and height.
A child is considered overweight if he or she falls within the 85th – 95th percentile for the age group. If a kid is above the 95th percentile, he or she would be deemed obese.
However, children are constantly growing and experiencing physical changes. As kids get older, body fat can shift and accumulate in different locations of the body.
Though the amount of fat may remain the same, it can redistribute as height increases.
Most people gain about 25% of their height during puberty.
This, along with other changes, can make it more challenging to definitively detect cases of childhood obesity.
Why Obesity is More Common Today
Since the 1970s, researchers have seen an uptick in the number of children affected by obesity.
Though this may be attributed to a long list of reasons, some causes include the normalization of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie-dense, fatty foods.
The accessibility of these foods — in conjunction with screen-based, sedentary activities such as entertainment apps and videos —increases the risk of becoming overweight.
Processed food should be eaten in moderation. When fast food or other cheap, unhealthy options are repeatedly chosen to offer nutritional sustenance, it could lead to dependence.
Eating and lifestyle behaviors are creating a less active society, which contributes to the increase in nationwide obesity.
How to Tell if Your Child is Obese
Just because your child appears to be overweight doesn’t mean he or she is obese. As previously mentioned, it is somewhat dependent on the BMI.
If you’re unsure or concerned about your child’s weight, visit a pediatrician to get an accurate and trustworthy opinion.
Doctors can also conduct full-body composition analyses to determine which vitamins, minerals and proteins your little one might be missing.
Ways You Can Help Your Child
Being overweight is a common insecurity for many people, regardless of age.
Though addressing it takes time and compassion, it’s not impossible for children to drop a few pounds and build back their confidence.
Recognize Social Media Standards
In a culture heavily influenced by social media and unrealistic beauty standards, talking with your child about his or her weight might be difficult.
Be aware of the media that your loved one consumes and get a sense of how he or she feels about weight and self-confidence.
By recognizing how children respond to their reflections, you can get a better sense of how to approach any issues.
One of the most important and beneficial ways to help is to let him or her know that you are available for support.
Having an open, honest and transparent conversation with your child can put you both on the path to healthier habits.
Parents often criticize their children in ways that can affect them later in life, whether positively or negatively.
By letting them know that you accept them at any weight, you’ll be more likely to overcome the problem early and with consensual participation.
Even if one child is more overweight than another, it’s important to involve the whole family through the process.
Making behavioral adjustments together can help your kids feel even more supported. If you feel that your children may be headed toward obesity, address some of the unhealthy habits that are prevalent in the home.
You can do this by making more nutritious meals, eliminating sugary drinks, cutting out fast food or participating in more physical activities.
Don’t be too alarmed if your child is struggling with their body image or weight.
As a common insecurity, remember that although it may be a sensitive topic, compassionate encouragement can go a long way!
Author Bio: Kids Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of children. The organization partners with a number of well-known nonprofits serving children and teens who are confronted with physical, mental and emotional challenges to provide the care they need.