Sadly, today we are seeing that obesity is definitely a growing epidemic among children. I find that a large percentage of my pediatric patients are obese because of poor diet and lack of exercise.
I’ve observed that many of my patients who are overweight eat a lot of processed meats, starchy foods and sugary drinks while consuming few fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another big factor contributing to obesity is children simply don’t get enough exercise. Too many schools have made PE optional.
Obesity can lead to detrimental health effects such as hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, fatty liver, heart disease and early death. But there is good news. Obesity can be reversed by implementing a healthier lifestyle. I know this because I’ve done it myself.
Following My Own Advice
I’ve lost 18 pounds since September 2013. I did it by making a few simple adjustments. I replaced sugary drinks with water. I incorporated exercise in my daily routine by getting on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I cut back on cooking rice as a side dish for dinner and now prepare a variety of green vegetables instead. I also focus on lean proteins such as grilled tilapia, chicken or lean beef.
During the work week, I usually eat a cup of vegetable soup and a salad for lunch. Previously, I ate a lunch high in carbs (tacos, rice, enchiladas). For accountability, I use an app called MyFitnessPal. It allows you to keep track of your caloric intake, daily exercise, and water consumption. It also gives you encouraging comments for staying on track and for weight loss.
Since losing the weight, I feel better and have more energy.
Participation by the Entire Family Is Needed
In my opinion, the biggest hurdle in losing weight is lack of will power and absence of family support. Many obese children are unable to lose weight because the parents keep supplying the snacks (cookies, chips and candy – just don’t buy it!). Not surprisingly, most obese kids have parents who are obese as well. But if the entire family works together to exercise and make dietary changes, weight loss can be easier achieved.
My 5 Tips
Here are my tips for getting started:
Take an inventory of the food items in your kitchen. Instead of sugary cereals, serve Cheerios instead, which has just 1 gram of sugar per serving.
When preparing dinner, cook fresh or fresh frozen vegetables. Canned vegetables should be avoided because the salt content is high.
Limit rice, bread and potatoes because these starches can lead to weight gain if consumed frequently.
Drinking water is important. Eight glasses of water daily is recommended.
Don’t forget that exercise is just as important as a healthy diet. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily – go for a walk, have a dance party in the living room, visit the local playground.
Do you have any additional tips to offer? What’s working or not working for your kids and family? Share your advice and ideas with our readers.
Dr. Higgins is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Pasadena whose clinical interests include breastfeeding, immunizations and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. She also enjoys helping parents understand preventive care.