Often we receive phone calls from parents and grandparents asking if we can work with a child in their family who is struggling with weight issues. The worried adult has been noticing that the child has been gaining more weight than normal, and based on what growth charts suggest, the child is considered obese. After listening to their concerns, we suggest setting a time to come and meet for a consultation. We suggest the whole family come in if possible. The reason for this is because, just like alcoholism, obesity is a family disease.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The CDC’s website states, “In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” Youths who are obese are much more likely to have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. They are also, in the long run, more likely to be obese as adults. Which means they are at a greater risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. The good news is that the national obesity rate seems to have leveled off in children and slowed in adults in the last couple of years. This does not mean the problem is solved, but it is beginning to be addressed.
The reason why we suggest concerned parents/grandparents bring the entire family in for a consultation is that obesity often is developed due to lifestyle choices. Often too it is not isolated to just one family member but many. It is not uncommon to have a concerned parent who is overweight or obese calling for their child to begin training and ignoring their health status. Children are mirrors of ourselves. The decisions they make are often based on what their parental role models do. If you come home from a hard day at the office and plop down on the couch and watch television, there’s a good chance that they will do the same after a hard day at school. Here are just a few questions to see if you, as a family, are living a healthy, active lifestyle.
- How much play time outside of school does your child engage in every day? Is it measured in minutes or hours?
- How much play time outside of work do you engage in every day? Is it measured in minutes or hours.
- How many days per week do you play as a family?
- Is the layout of your living room designed as an alter to the television or as a place of conversation?
- Do you have dinner at the dining room table without television?
- Does your family plan out meals together?
- Do kids participate in meal preparation and cooking?
- Are your family vacations about lying poolside or are they active and adventurous?
- Can you name two of your kid’s best friends?
- Do you read with your kids no matter their age.
These questions are meant to provoke thoughts and ideas, not to create judgment. If you are concerned about the health and fitness of your family, there are solutions. Just remember the solution involves a family approach and not just one child.