Tips to Reducing and Preventing Childhood Obesity
By Margaret Lewin, MD,FACP
Since the 1970’s, childhood and adolescent obesity has increased three- to six-fold, such that nearly 20% of 2- to 19-year-old children and adolescents are obese. Obesity in this age group is a serious medical condition which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – all risk factors for early heart disease. In addition, obesity significantly affects self-esteem and usually worsens with age.
Proactive Steps Children Can Take to Reduce Weight:
First and foremost: get help! It’s extremely difficult to make long-term, substantial changes in life-style alone without guidance and ongoing support and encouragement. Steps include:
· Increase physical activity. Even if not athletically inclined, young people can always find physical activities within their capabilities that are fun. These activities are best done within a supervised group, where there is constant encouragement, other people to cheer them on, and a sense of obligation to participate on a regular basis.
· Severely limit the time spent on solitary, sedentary activities other than schoolwork. For example, set a daily limit on electronic games, watching television, surfing the internet, texting, etc. · Increase social time not centered on food. For example, participate in more after-school activities.
· Learn what a healthy diet is! Then take steps to replace unhealthy foods with those which offer better nutrition and lower calories. Eat the healthier, low-calories foods first, dampening the appetite for other foods. Find socially acceptable substitutes for what your friends are eating: for example, cut-up vegetables (instead of chips) with dips, fruit instead of high-fat, high calorie desserts. Limit portion size by using smaller plates and sharing off-diet foods with friends. Replace colas with seltzer flavored with lemon, lime or even some cocoa.
· Educate and encourage families to shop more wisely, learn to prepare tasty, healthy alternatives to fattening foods, and keep healthy, low-calorie snacks readily available.
Dr. Margaret Lewin is the Chief Medical Director of Cinergy Health, cinergyhealth.com.