Health Tips & Articles

We Need To Talk About...

by Karen G. Sheldon, NP

Why do we have to talk about weight? Well, the first answer is because it is a basic part of the overall assessment of your child's health. You may remember that pediatric health care providers have been focused on weight assessment since your child was first born. Being underweight or overweight can be an important early sign that there is another, perhaps more serious health condition involved.  Second, it has been well publicized that our country has seen a significant rise in childhood obesity over the last few decades. Many reasons can account for this and yet we still need to evaluate and discuss the condition to help avoid the many health related consequences in the future. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, bone and joint problems as well as low self-esteem and other emotional conditions.

Routine assessment of all children for obesity-related problems is key for early intervention. Evidence has been mounting that changes to unhealthy lifestyle habits when young can be very effective. While some issues around obesity are genetic, many more are social or nutritionally based.  Making a few key lifestyle changes, however small at first, can have a great impact over time. Involving your child in the plan forHealthy Living regardless of the child's size or age can give the child a sense of confidence and control in choosing healthy options for themselves. Most children are eager to take"good" good care of themselves if they have the right information. Encourage your child to make some choices that they think should be included in the plan. The Healthy Living plan can beasa way "to help the body stay healthy, smart and strong".

Simple changes such as strictly limiting the time in front of screens (i.e., TV, computer, video games...), ensuring opportunities for increased fun physical activity time, selecting and providing healthy low-fat, low sugar snack options, avoiding drinking too many calories, learning portion controls, and eating a solid breakfast benefits nearly everyone. If it is the "household philosophy", then it is the normal behavior for all family members. One should never focus blame or shame toward an overweight child; it is important to be supportive and encouraging while modeling healthy living strategies. Lead by example and work as a team.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children and their families should receive counselling on obesity prevention regardless of their size or age at the well child visit. Each family member can benefit from understanding consequences of obesity-related risks and reasons for changes that promote long term overall good health. Providing obesity focused education is just a way to help with this process. Discussing weight can be a sensitive subject for sure but please do not be upset that your pediatric health care providers care enough to help with your child's success in becoming a "healthy, smart and strong" adult.



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