Fighting childhood, adolescent obesity
The Conclusion Part 3 of 3
by Rev. Judith T. Lester, B.Min., M.Th.
If your child is overeating and it is not due to family stress, Dr. Linda Mintle in Preventing Childhood Obesity, Christian Counseling Connection (2005), suggests that parents explore these five areas:
1. How does the child fit in socially? It is true that overweight children suffer more rejection and social exclusion than their normal weight peers, however, they can practice social skills aimed at increasing positive peer relationships to reduce social anxiety.
There is also the problem with teasing. Parents should convey to their child that the two of them will handle the teasing together and work on improving the situation. Parents must be positive and give hope.
2. Are there opportunities to overeat? If a child overeats because there is an opportunity to overeat, parents must take charge of meals and snacking.
Buy healthy foods that build strong bodies. Buy more fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods. Make mealtime a family event. This includes modeling good eating habits, encouraging your child to stop eating when full, eating at regular times, eating at designated places (the kitchen table only) and regularly offering a variety of foods to encourage healthy food choices.
3. Is the child getting enough physical exercise? For most children a sedentary lifestyle is one of the roots of being overweight. Time once spent on physical or outdoor activity has been replaced by television, computer, and video game time. Children need to engage in daily active activities. Choose activities that children enjoy like bike riding, rollerblading, kick ball, tag, or simply walking.
4. Does the child overeat at school? Many schools have a la carte menus apart from their normal lunch programs. Parents need to know what foods their child have access to during the school day and talk to the child about making healthy choices.
5. Finally, what is the parent(s) attitude about body image and weight? So much of a child’s attitude about his/her body comes from listening to how parents talk about their bodies. If the parent is constantly dieting, making negative remarks about their body, obsessing and talking about the way people look, the children will pick up on these themes and often feel they don’t measure up to preconceived ideals.*
In sum, obesity presents numerous problems for children and adolescents. In addition to increasing the risk of obesity in adulthood, childhood obesity is the leading cause of pediatric hypertension, is associated with Type II diabetes, increases the risk of coronary heart disease, increases stress on the weight-bearing joints, lowers self-esteem, and affects relationships with peers.
Parents you can set the example. Make healthy eating and living a family affair. Children will take their lead from their parents. If you eat healthy and stay active, chances are your kids will too. The Bible encourage parents to “Teach your children to choose the right path and when they are older, they will remain upon it” (Proverbs 22:6). Teach healthy behavior to your children at a young age and they will most often follow in the direction encouraged.
*Source: Dr. Linda Mintle in Preventing Childhood Obesity, Christian Counseling Connection (2005).
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her at P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.