Obesity is an epidemic. It affects 1 in 4 Canadian adults and 1 in 10 Canadian children. According to Health Canada, the obesity rates among children have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Let me repeat that, the obesity rates among CHILDREN have nearly TRIPLED in the last 30 years! This alarming statistic proves we have a major issue on our hands.

What is childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child’s weight is way above the norm for their height and age. These children carry abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair their health.

“It is important to note, there are many healthy, overweight children. It is normal for some children to carry more weight depending on their stage of development,” says Barbara MacLean, a local registered psychologist. “We have to recognize that if our children’s diets are nutritious and they are physically fit, their body development is otherwise out of their control.”

The big concern parents should have is when a child goes from being slightly overweight to obese.

What are the leading causes of childhood obesity?
Dr. Alexandra Laskowski, a local pediatrician says “the leading causes of childhood obesity, in my opinion, are lifestyle and family history. Today’s lifestyle of computers, gaming and TV are at a high. Kids are not going outside and playing as much. Quick meals for working parents and endless screen time contribute to the health of children.

A lot of times family history plays a part in obesity. Children are brought up in an environment where home cooked meals are not implemented. Fast food is readily available, quick, affordable and plentiful. They grow accustomed to these meals and the cycle continues on to the next generations that follow.”

What are the risks of childhood obesity?
Dr. Amy Punke, a local naturopathic doctor says “childhood obesity will increase the risk for early onset of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and mental health concerns such as depression and substance abuse.”

The emotional toll that comes along with being an obese child is great. These children suffer from bullying, self-esteem issues, depression, emotional eating, and discrimination.

This leaves them struggling to obtain balance and happiness within themselves.
If at an early age, children are labelled as overweight or obese, their entire relationship with food and the perception of themselves is in jeopardy, sometimes leading to eating disorders. As a parent it is difficult to know when to wait it out and when to worry and
have to address the health issue with your child.

“In addressing a child’s weight, one does have to exercise sensitivity. Some of my work is with clients with eating disorders.  The causes of these disorders are complex. However, in every client I have worked with, the disorder was triggered by a comment, often well-intended, or innocent teasing, ” says Barb MacLean.

WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP
1.     Be a healthy role model for your children. Children learn by example.
2.     Make meal time a priority. Learn how to cook healthy, homemade meals and include your children in the process and eat your meals together.
3.     Limit the amount of processed food and sugary drinks in your home.
4.     Allow your children to talk openly about their feelings.
5.     Play outside with your children as
a family.
6.     Involve your children in sports.
7.     Regulate screen time on computers, TV and electronics.
8.     Make sure your child gets the proper amount of sleep. 10-11 hours a night for children 5 to 12 years old.
9.     Help your children understand the many benefits of eating well and exercising.
10. Do not use food to motivate
your child.
11. Never make comments about your child’s weight.
12. Encourage your children to drink
lots of water.

If you are concerned about your child’s weight, please speak privately to your family doctor.  They can determine if your child’s weight is in an unhealthy range by using growth charts and checking their history of development.

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