Q: “I know that a lot of children are considered overweight. How do I know if my kids are overweight and what can I do to help them?”
A: There are a growing number of kids today who are overweight and obese (weight is 20 percent or more above normal weight). Physicians are now treating more children than ever who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and increased rates of type II diabetes brought on by excess body fat. The concern is that many of these children are damaging their bodies by establishing unhealthy habits early in life and paying the price through increased rates of disease, diminished quality of life, and even decreased lifespan.
Talking with your child’s doctor about weight concerns is a great place to start. Your family physician can review your child’s growth patterns and determine whether or not they are on a healthy path. Children who have shown significant increases in body mass index (BMI) from year-to-year may need modifications in lifestyle and diet.
Determining BMI is a simple calculation of weight in relation to height. There are numerous BMI calculators available online and your child’s doctor can calculate his/her BMI during an office visit. A good BMI for adults and children would be below 24; too far above or below that number can be cause for concern.
Children need a lot of active playtime to burn off excess calories; at least one to two hours each day is recommended. Sleep is also an important element in a healthy, active lifestyle and most children need nine or more hours each night to function at their peak.
Many parents of overweight children see food as the root problem to their child’s weight issue and they may restrict foods, even resorting to locking the refrigerator or the cabinets. Food restriction can backfire and cause children to develop an obsession with food based on fears about not getting enough to eat. Often this obsession can lead a child to overeat whenever he or she gets a chance.
The best thing you can do to help your child establish a healthier relationship with food is to set the example in your home. Take the lead and offer only wholesome food choices in the proper portion sizes for meals and snacks. Eat at regular intervals and exercise regularly with your child. If you feel that you need more education about establishing a healthy eating plan talk to your doctor or a dietitian at Hendricks Regional Health. One-on-one nutrition counseling sessions are available by calling (317) 745-3768.
Dr. Cyndi Speelman
is a family practice physician with Avon Family Health
, part of the Hendricks Regional Health Medical Group
. To make an appointment with Avon Family Health