Childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past 30 years in the United States. In 1980, only 7% of children ages 6-11 were considered obese. That number rose to nearly 18% in 2012. For adolescents (ages 12-19) the numbers are even more alarming, moving from 5% to 21% over the same time period. Ask any expert why the increase has taken place and you’ll get the same answer: too many calories consumed and too few expended.
That may sound like too much of a simplification. But according to Dr. Mark Gettleman, M.D., F.A.A.P. and founder of Dr. Goofy GettWell, a mobile and telemedicine pediatric practice, the answer is simple.
“It all boils down to calories in, calories out,” Dr. Gettleman said. “Kids are eating more and moving less. We need to encourage kids to pass on the junk food, sodas and juice drinks while also encouraging them to move their bodies more.”
Dr. Gettleman believes that while there are some genetic causes for obesity, most of it can be controlled with moderate behavior modification.
“Childhood obesity is a serious illness,” Dr. Gettleman explains. “It can lead to cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, strokes, even cancer. It also poses a risk for diabetes later in life.”
Those are only some of the physical concerns. Dr. Gettleman says that the social and psychological problems linked to childhood obesity are even greater.
“Kids who are morbidly obese suffer from low self-esteem and often are targets of bullying and stigmatization at school,” he said. “We need to teach kids how to eat well and get them excited about exercising.”
Dr. Gettleman’s Top 5 Healthy Eating Tips for Kids:
- Eliminate all soda, juice and sports drinks
- Limit dessert to two times/week
- Encourage fruit as a sweet snack alternative
- Don’t use food as a behavioral reward (use a toy, an experience or one-on-one time with a parent to encourage good behavior)
- Don’t insist that kids finish everything on their plates. When kids are full, allow them to stop eating. Encourage your kids to listen to their own bodies regarding hunger and satiety.
Dr. Gettleman’s Top 5 Exercise Tips for Kids:
- Be the best model for commitment to physical activity. If you’re a couch potato, how do you expect your kids to want to run around in the backyard? Get involved personally in some kind of physical activity to motivate your children.
- Create a plan: Work with your kids to set goals and design a basic fitness plan. At first it might be just a walk around the block every afternoon. But it will give you a foundation upon which to build.
- Keep a log: Write it down and keep track of how often your kids are participating in physical activity. Supply them with non-edible rewards for achieving weekly or monthly goals.
- Limit screen time. There are so many reasons for your kids to not move their bodies: TV, computer, tablet, smart phone. Place appropriate limits on all electronic devices. 1 hour of screen time on school days and two hours on weekends will allow your kids to stay “connected” but will push them to find other outlets for their energy and creativity.
- Do something together. Whether it’s tossing a ball in the backyard or a friendly Ping-Pong tournament. Help your kids enjoy moving by playing any kind of physical games together.
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Dr. Gettleman was awarded first place as The Arizona Republic’s Reader’s Choice Spring 2015 “Best Place for you Children’s Healthy Care.” For more information on Dr. Gettleman, please visit http://www.drgoofygettwell.com.
Tell us: How do you and your child stay healthy and active? Give us your suggestions in the comments section below!