In response to your recent
article entitled "Cancer Risk increases with Obesity More Young
Children and Adults," I’d like to comment on America’s growing
problem of childhood obesity, and offer some simple, sensitive, and
successful solutions for families with overweight children.
We all want the best for our children, and being
overweight increases their risk of developing diabetes, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, stroke, and
cancer. In addition, classmates’ teasing and the inability to
participate in certain childhood activities can sometimes affect a
Despite these risks, recent studies show that 16
percent of children and teenagers in the United States are
overweight, with that number steadily rising. Statistics also show
that if one parent is obese, there’s a 50 percent chance their
children will be obese. When both parents are obese, their
children’s risk of obesity rises to 80%.
The reason: children learn their eating
habits—healthy or unhealthy—from their parents. Genetics play only a
minor role in determining obesity.
Lifestyle is the primary culprit.
Parents, therefore, are the first line of defense
against childhood obesity.
As the shoppers, buyers, and cooks, parents must
commit to a healthy lifestyle and incorporate healthy habits into
Persistence, patience, and participation are
critical. Children usually have to be introduced to a food between 8
to 12 times before they actually start liking it. But they are far
more likely to try foods they see their parents eating regularly.
That means parents must take responsibility for
providing healthy food choices in the house, involving their
children in nutritious decisions for meals and snacks, and making
appropriate choices themselves, so they can be healthy role models
for their children.
As with any safe and effective weight loss program,
gradual, long-term behavior modification is the key to a child’s
success. Remember, putting children on diets can interrupt their
natural growth and development, often making them feel even worse
about their weight, and sometimes exacerbating their poor eating
Instead, children need to develop healthy eating
habits over time by learning about proper portion sizes, balanced
meals, and the maxim “everything in moderation.”
Exercise and activity are other important elements.
Whether sports teams, playground dates, swimming lessons, or even
the theater club, children should be involved in active hobbies. TV,
video games, and other forms of “screen time” do not count.
Furthermore, link these activities to children’s talents and
interests rather than their weight, and you’ll also develop their
confidence and self-esteem along the way.
The truth is, overweight children face the same
misconceptions from the public as overweight adults do: he’s heavy
because he’s lazy, she must eat junk food all the time, etc. These
comments are unfair and untrue. For all overweight Americans (and
there are quite a few of them), the proven solution is as easy—and
as hard—as maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and activity.
When taught about proper nutrition, good eating
habits, and regular exercise, children can look forward to becoming
healthy, active, and energetic adults. And that’s something we all
want for them.
Jennifer Simmons MS, RD, LDN, CNSD
Director of Nutrition Services for L A Weight Loss