Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesityAs we all know, childhood obesity is a major issue in our country.  There are many causes to obesity, including various genetic, lifestyle, medical, and environmental factors.  Psychological factors can also play a major part in the development of childhood obesity.  There’s no doubt that certain people tend to overeat when faced with stressful life circumstances in an effort to escape from their pain.  People also overeat in response to depression, anxiety, and boredom.  The resulting weight gain resulting from emotional overeating can exacerbate psychological symptoms, contributing to a vicious cycle of poor emotional and physical health.

Of the various factors of obesity, children are at a greater risk to the psychological factors given their limited coping skills, as compared to adults.  As parents, there are many things you can do to limit the psychological impacts on your child’s physical health.  Here are three tips:

1. Change your family’s eating lifestyle – Children are like sponges, they closely watch and mimic their parents.  When they see you drinking soda, they want one.  So guess that happens when they hear you marvel at the taste of celery and carrots dipped in a low-fat spread?  Provide and maintain a variety of healthy snacks in the house, instead of junk food.  That way, when the inevitable “bad day” arises, you and your child will have a plethora of healthy options.  Also, resist the urges for fast food by planning balanced meals.  Allow your child to help with grocery shopping – this will build their self-confidence, as well as help them live healthy lives in the future.

2. Make exercising fun and rewarding – Find activities that your family can do together like playing basketball, taking walks, or riding bikes.  Shared activities promote physical and psychological health.  Also, be sure to verbally praise your child when they work out and be precise and positive with your comments (e.g., “I’m so proud of you for taking care of your body”).

3. Seek medical and psychological help – If your child has a medical condition that hinders their physical health, be sure to meet with their primary care doctor on a consistent basis and follow all medical recommendations.  If your child struggles with psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, body image issues, depression, anxiety, or bully victimization, seek additional support at school or from a qualified therapist.  These resources may help both you and your child’s mental and physical health.