Reversing Preschool Obesity and Encouraging Health for Life

There has been an increase in childhood obesity in the United States. In fact, 10% of preschool children (2-5 years) are overweight and more than 15% of children and adolescents ages 6-19 are overweight. Due to the adverse health costs of childhood obesity, the risk for overweight children to become obese adults and the lifelong adoption of risk behaviors formed in early childhood, it is necessary to encourage healthy lifestyles in early childhood and reduce the development of risk behaviors associated with obesity among young children.

As a parent or caregiver to preschoolers you may be interested in a study done by the University of Illinois titled “Risk Factors for Overweight/Obesity in Preschool Children: An Ecological Approach.” This research has identified the top three risk factors linked to child obesity in preschoolers. Surprisingly, they are not all really directly food related.

  1. Inadequate sleep.
  2. A parent with a BMI that classifies the mom or dad as overweight or obese.
  3. Parental restriction of a child’s eating in order to control his or her weight.

This makes sense, if moms and dads live in an environment that causes them to be overweight or obese – that same environment will likely have the same impact on the child. Remember children follow what they see and we may be passing our preferences on to them.

As a parent, if you are looking for your motivation to make those small healthy lifestyle changes, this could be a good one. Start with changing your food environment at home and make healthy choices easily available and unhealthy foods not so available. However, keep in mind that over restricting some foods may only increase cravings for those items when you aren’t around.  

Next, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games. Instead try to encourage active play. Games like chase or playing in the park are great, but make sure you are involved.

The university researchers also added, “Don’t use food to comfort your children when they are hurt or disappointed, do allow your preschooler to select their foods as bowls are passed at family-style meals (not pre-plating at the counter – it discourages self-regulation) and encourage all your children to be thoughtful about what they are eating.”

If you would like to read the whole article you can find it here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24020790

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