Treating childhood obesity

Focus on how to eat to feel good versus what to eat.

by Lynnette Baumgart — 

The number of overweight children has increased dramatically. Being overweight refers to an excess of body weight relative to height. Many families are overweight due to diets high in saturated fats, sugars and an overall sedentary lifestyle. Parent involvement is necessary in order for a child to be healthy, and the entire family’s attitude about food must be positive and proactive.

Health risks are associated with childhood obesity. Children who are overweight may begin puberty earlier and grow taller than their peers at first, then stop growing at a shorter height. Obese children also can develop greater bone and muscle mass from carrying more weight, and they have a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and respiratory disease.

Being overweight can also bring about emotional and social problems by creating a poor self-image and a sense of failure. These symptoms and conditions can either progress or regress, depending on lifestyle behaviors. This progression or regression is very much related to how the parents deal with food themselves.

To regress obesity, treating the cause of the extra weight is required. Foods low in protein, high in carbohydrates, high in fat and loaded with refined sugars lower metabolism, which contributes to weight gain. The nutrient and energy needs during childhood can vary widely, depending on growth and physical activity. Offering well-balanced meals and snacks in most cases will provide all the nutrients needed for proper growth and development.

Several influences besides calories and lack of exercise can contribute to excess weight. Nutrient deficiencies, a slow metabolism, food sensitivities, and/or heavy metal toxicity affect digestion and absorption of nutrients, causing chronic hunger and an inability to properly burn calories. A hair mineral analysis will reveal if any of these factors are present. At that time the correct supplements and foods can be suggested to enhance improved energy production and health.

Focus on how to eat to feel good versus what to eat. Eat three meals a day with planned snacks of nutrient-dense foods, and select a variety of foods throughout the day and week. Eat only when hungry, keeping fruit and vegetable sticks in sight and in easy-to-reach places.

Designate one place to eat. Make mealtimes fun and involve the family in planning, grocery shopping and reading labels. Encourage children to try new foods and praise them for every effort. Showing approval will boost their self-esteem and support better eating habits and lifestyle choices.

Get active with your child, and discourage TV watching. Two hours a day of this sedentary time-waster can slow down metabolism enough to contribute to a 23 percent increase in obesity. Controlling weight and being active together is a win-win solution.

 

Lynnette Baumgart, Dipl. C.N., is a nutritionist and holistic health coach. She offers one-on-one and group sessions on nutritional counseling, guided meditations, qi gong movement and Reiki. 602-509-8272, PhxNutritionist@cox.net or www.PhxNutritionist.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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