It is all over the news these days. The obesity epidemic and, more specifically, Childhood Obesity. It is a real threat, one we should all be concerned with, and one we should make every attempt to nip in the bud. Now!
We talked to our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer, since he sees this type of thing everyday. He trains youths and assists with weight loss all the time
How did this happen?
Our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer says, “Blame could be put on a number of areas. From ‘supersized’ portions at every restaurant we go to (compared with portion sizes in the 50s, 60s and 70s), to much more screen time for kids– which translates into less physical activity– to diminishing physical education periods, all can be said to play a role in our growing epidemic of childhood obesity.” He continues, “Some may even attribute the issue to limited access to affordable healthy food, versus fast food which is cheaper, or an increased consumption of sugar—in our drinks, as well as more processed foods.”
The facts are that one in three children is overweight or obese, and many studies have shown that overweight children will eventually become overweight and obese adults.
This isn’t only a problem for the health of our society, but also a concern as to it being a drain on our health care resources.
“The gauge that most people use to determine if someone is overweight or obese,” says our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut, “is the Body Mass Index or BMI.”
He explains that, while there are definite problems with this gauge for the entire population (consider that people with a large bone frame, and/or muscular physique will appear as “overweight” and “obese” with only the BMI calculation), it still is widely used overall, since large-framed and muscular people are not the majority.
Our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut says, “BMI is calculated by multiplying one’s weight in pounds by 0.45 (metric conversion). So, for instance, a 105 pound child will be 47.25 kg.
Multiply the height in inches by 0.025 (metric conversion). For example, that 105 pound child who is 4 foot 2 inches (or 50 inches tall) would be 1.25 meters.
Then multiply the answer (1.25 meters) by itself (1.25 x 1.25= 1.5625).
Next, divide the kg by the meters (47.25/1.5625= 30.24).”
In children, versus adults, most doctors won’t go by strictly the BMI. Instead they will determine what percentile the child is in for height and weight versus other children at their age. This is because children are constantly in growth mode, whereas adults are not.
An “overweight child” is one who is above the weight that is considered “normal” and healthy for that child. That means a child’s BMI will be in the 85th but less than the 95th percentile for their age.
An “Obese child” is one whose BMI is in the 95th percentile or higher for their age.
“People need to be aware of the complications associated and directly caused by obesity in children,” said our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer.
Issues corresponding to childhood obesity are:
Type 2 diabetes (once called “Adult-onset diabetes,” but no longer reserved for overweight adults, as our children are becoming more overweight, more frequently),
Asthma (excess weight makes it more difficult to breathe), and
Even heart problems and heart disease (extra weight on a child makes the heart work that much harder).
Our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer is convinced we all need to do more.
“Essentially there are at least two very important things we need to do to combat this, and we need to do them now:
Our children need to eat healthier, and they need to move more/exercise more.”
Reduce (if not eliminate) the amount of processed foods. Begin eating healthier, whole foods. The less processed a food is, the healthier it is to eat.
Processing can mean anything from changing wheat into a Ho-Ho or steaming a vegetable. The important thing to remember is you don’t have to eat raw foods and nothing else; you want to keep what you put in your mouth as minimally processed as possible. So, freezing or cooking vegetables is not a bad thing!
But when your food isn’t identifiable as the original item it began as, then perhaps it has been processed too much.
“Eating healthier isn’t only about what you put in your mouth. (I think everyone would agree that fruits, vegetables, oats and lean meat are healthier than Twinkies),” our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer tells us.
“It’s also about portion size and portion control.
Ever notice that many bagels are as big as your head?
Decades ago, bagels were the size of what we now call ‘mini-bagels.’ Our portions have gotten way out of whack.”
Help your children eat the “right-size” portions. Locate the serving size and start measuring or weighing it out. A serving of cookies, for example, is usually two cookies. Not a sleeve of cookies. Get your children used to what a normal portion size is.
Drink more water.
Water is incredibly important in our day to day functioning. It helps keep us hydrated which in turn helps our entire digestion system. We don’t NEED sugar in our drinks. Unless it’s an occasional treat once in a while, keep your kids drinking water only, as often as possible. Even juice (or what is disguised as juice, often called “juice drinks”) is not necessary. Children are much better off eating their calories.
Consider this: eating an orange or an apple will be more satisfying and filling to your child than drinking orange or apple juice.
If children are used to a sedentary lifestyle, it is often difficult to get them to change this behavior.
There are two things parents can do to assist in this obstacle:
Be good role models—yes. That means you need to be active with and for your child(ren). Set an example. If you, yourself, are sedentary, you need to change that—for your own health, as well as your child’s (children’s) health.
Make it Fun—This will help you too! The internet is a mecca for ideas. Find out how to make fitness, exercise and movement fun!
This could mean taking dance classes, going roller skating or ice skating, playing tennis, swimming, hiking in the woods or up a mountain, or just throwing the ball around. Find something that you will look forward to doing. Learn something new! There are tons of fun activities to get involved in.
Increasing physical activity comes with a caveat. You will need to decrease your kids’ screen time.
Swap out an hour of screen time daily in favor of physical activity. Most children need about an hour of physical activity per day.
The last thing our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer told us was to keep in mind the other necessities that you will need to stay healthy, like getting enough sleep. And always discuss any changes with your child’s medical doctor.