Childhood obesity is a complex process. At the Centre, we believe in equipping our patients with prevention measures early on in the life cycle to prevent childhood obesity. We also work to reverse childhood obesity through nutritional intervention, lifestyle recommendations, and addressing and being sensitive to the emotional aspects of the condition. While patients may have many of the same contributing factors, each one must be treated as an individual as their specific situations and responses to treatment will vary.
According to the CDC, obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to determine childhood overweight and obesity. Factors that increase risk include, but are not limited to, lack of social support to make healthy choices, high-calorie, low-nutrient dense diets, availability of healthy foods at school or daycare, increases in sedentary activities (more time on video games and devices and less time playing outdoors), affordability of healthy foods, marketing of unhealthy foods, and community design. There are also complex interplays of hormones in the body that can become out of balance with toxin exposure and overload, and gut dysfunction. At CentreSpringMD, we cover all of these areas and thoroughly assess our patients to get to their root cause vs. the root cause.
Sadly, obese children face increased risk in adulthood for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and are already dealing with issues such as elevated cholesterol, emotional stressors, and hypertension. Where do we begin? What can we do to decrease this incidence, even if little by little, on a larger scale and for the child in front of us?
- Participate in prevention initiatives. It truly starts with prevention. As we work to reverse an epidemic, we strive to stay ahead of it. As a community, it is important to participate in initiatives that educate our children to make healthy food choices. These choices start at home, so educating parents is key as well. Ask yourself, what kind of behavior am I modeling for my own family when it comes to healthy eating?
- Find a specialist. For parents working to help their child reach a healthy weight, meeting with an integrative medical provider or nutritionist is essential. They can help you understand calories needed for growth and activity level, food groups to prioritize, etc. Avoiding GMO foods that can disrupt hormones involved in fat metabolism and processed foods, and steering clear of toxins that can disrupt hormone balance is essential.
- Encourage Kids to be Active. Cut out screen time and replace with a physical activity that the entire family enjoys. Don’t feel like you have to start with Kid’s Crossfit. While this may be ok for some, incorporating activities such as gardening or climbing and building forts do not “feel” like exercise, so there may be a little more interest on the child’s part.
- Make healthy eating interesting and fun. I truly believe that having children involved in the kitchen at a young age helps them to appreciate and value what nature offers us to eat. Washing garden tomatoes or peeling oranges can create feelings of connectedness with their foods. Take them to farmer’s markets and let them pick out the produce. Read books about how bees make honey and then eat some on a spoon on occasion. This will help them to appreciate where their food is coming from, and likely make them more excited to eat it!