Computers, Xbox, I-touch, Nintendo, cell phones, and Kindles are the electronic devices that describe the day-to-day passions of my children, which I think is typical of most middle class families living in Northern Virginia.
Electronic devices have become the top choice of entertainment for kids these days, and unfortunately, this indoor play has contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic in America.
When I was little, we played outside. Nearly every waking hour was spent playing in the woods, building forts, riding bikes, and playing hide and seek. We were forced outdoors by my mother and disappeared for hours at a time. We used our imaginations in a more physically active way, and for the most part, we were thin and eating limited processed foods.
Childhood obesity rates were last collected in Virginia in 2007 and showed that approximately 30% of children – ages 10-17 – were found to be overweight or obese. This figure ranked the state 23rd highest in the country for percentage of overweight or obese children!
We all know that obesity has a tremendous impact on our healthcare system, but now our children face diseases that were once limited to adults, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes. As adolescence approaches, we become more concerned about depression, cancer risks, and the impact on these children’s fertility in the future.
Let’s face it, this is a complicated issue – it’s hard to talk to kids about being overweight. Nobody wants to damage their kid’s self-esteem by mentioning they have a weight problem. But, kids don’t necessarily process the discussion about overeating as a criticism of their size. Avoidance of discussing weight gain may communicate a lack of parental concern and cause a child to feel more hopeless about their weight. Children often give us clues that they might actually want help. Parents who are obese and overweight may also dismiss their children’s weight struggles due to their own embarrassment or uneasiness about their issues with weight or food.
So, how do we talk to kids about food and help keep them at a healthy weight?
To you and your children’s health,
-Posted by Rachel F. Bonner, CFNP