Fitness Articles

Expert Solutions: Overweight Kids

SparkPeople Experts and Coaches Weigh-In on Issues with Overweight Children

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Of course we know that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country- and now it's been spilling over to our kids. Obesity among children is skyrocketing, and getting a lot of attention these days, but I think people are still not sure of a couple of things: How can parents prevent their own children from becoming overweight, and what do you do when a child (or adolescent) is obese?

Jen (SparkPeople Community Leader)
I think the first place it starts is with parents. When I worked at the YMCA we had a program for severely obese kids, and 9 times out of 10 the entire family was obese too. So I think there is something wrong with that family’s lifestyle that needs to be addressed. A 10-year-old can’t go grocery shopping for himself. But if he is given healthy options at home and the parents provide a good example, he’s much more likely to continue that behavior—partly because it’s familiar. If french fries are familiar at home, then he’s more likely to eat that as he gets older and can make his own choices.

Same goes with exercise- if they are given a good example and not allowed to sit in front of the TV all day, they are more likely to continue that behavior.

I think parents can create a healthy environment without focusing on counting calories and losing weight. It's just about being healthy and getting active. I get nervous when I hear people asking for calorie recommendations for their kids. They'll get enough of that pressure from media and society—no need to create more of it at home.

Christie Hadley (Certified Personal Trainer)
I agree with Jen. The parent's habits really impact how the kids act. Also, where children play has changed. When I was young and it was nice outside, I wasn't "allowed" to be inside. We made up games and ran around the back yard. If we came in for too long we were sent directly outside. I actually overheard a mom say the other day that now, she’d rather have her children play inside. That is a big shift in attitude.

In my personal opinion, I feel that the focus shouldn't be on the "good" foods and "bad" foods, and children should never be put on a "diet." The focus should be on a healthy lifestyle—an eat to win attitude so a child can be the best soccer player, ballerina, or math wizard she can be.
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Member Comments

  • QUANSC2
    Great article. I have a child that is obese. As the parent, I take full responsibility for it. As the parent I allowed too many hours of tv and video games. There has been too much fast food and too many excuses. As soon as I accepted that the issue was with me and his dad, we got on the right track. We can see the differences in the entire family already. - 2/19/2014 5:55:34 AM
  • Great article!!! After reading it I have decided that starting tomorrow(it is after 10pm) we will be doing a 15 minute family dance-a-thon!!!! I have already started making nutritious meals, and controlling portions, now I will add this.
    Cheers!!! - 12/1/2013 10:59:50 PM
  • There should not be a picture of an overweight baby for this article. In no way does overweight infants correlate to childhood obesity. - 4/26/2013 9:04:39 AM
  • Is Becky serious? If Obama and Kim Jong-un just played a game of roundball, everything would ok between East and West?

    The reason I was ovweweight as a kid is that my folks were too busy taking care of the household or its finanances to watch me play outdoors and they did not trust the neighbors to do it. Maybe ther was too much tv, soda, and convenience foods too. They did not know better. They grew up in agricultural communities and had no free time or extra food as they were growing up. They did not want their kids to have it as tough as them. They did not know it would make us lazy and fat.

    My generation can facilitate better food choices for our children, but where in the country can kids play all day unsupervised? - 4/21/2013 12:56:42 PM
  • I liked the article too. I just started reading "The Hunger Fix" by Pam Peeke, MD. There is some recent research about how eating certain foods destroys parts of genes and results in uncontrolled hunger and food addiction. This genetic change can be passed on to the children, or caused by their own diet. I'm only on page 14 but I now know why I gained up to the SMO level and could NOT stop eating. The book seems to fill in some of the missing pieces of the obesity puzzle. Very interesting! - 4/21/2013 12:02:55 PM
  • I think it's incredibly irresponsible and misleading to have a picture of an infant under this headline. Babies and diets never, ever, ever mix, and even though your article is about older children, it can still trigger an inexperienced parent into thinking their healthy, chubby baby is eating too much. That's not the kind of mixed messaging I'd expect from a health-focused website. - 4/21/2013 8:16:07 AM
  • I was an obese child before this "obese epidemic". My father was in the military, fit, and my mom was constantly on diets. I know that the high sodium (and especially after my parents divorced) highly processed foods did not help me get or stay healthy, despite walking often, I was also pretty sedentary. I was forced into mandatory, humiliating phys education; and made to "play outside"/not allowed inside by people who watched me after school. Playing outside isn't what keeps kids thin.

    I still believe that it was not just the food and exercise that was wrong - it was simply the wrong mix for MY body. My pre-8 year old body adapted fine with the level of growth and exercise. Then I hit puberty early, and that body didn't do as well with that environment, and neither did my emotional state and upheaval.

    I'm disappointed that there are limited choices in the related "who's to blame" poll - I think that we are all missing the point. Coach Nicole got the closest in reminding us that many ADULTs are obese, and that population is growing, so naturally, so follows the results in rise of childhood obesity.

    With less nutritious food, it's easy and fast for me to eat 3 or 4 times the calories and fat in ONE day that I need to maintain my weight. But it's hard for me to eat the same volume of foods that are more nutritious. Physically less possible, and, I think that because it is more nutritious, my body doesn't cry out for more and more food.

    Just some thoughts..
    Jocelyn - 1/29/2013 12:08:11 AM
  • I teach at a large, inner-city middle school and hardly any of our students are overweight. I am not sure if its genetics, life-style, or what. I do know that we have a large sports program, and mandatory PE. As a teacher, and a person who struggles with weight, I know this is a complex problem, with no easy solutions. - 1/28/2013 5:57:27 PM
  • Kids don't get recess and gym class as much anymore. Portion sizes have gotten bigger. Too much of stuff will make kids overweight (even if it is healthy things like grain bread, whole wheat pasta, cheese, nuts) It is convienent to go through the drive through and get $1 menu items like burgers and fries. WIth so many adults overweight, it is becming the norm for kids to be overweight too. - 1/28/2013 12:54:45 PM
  • I read this article, and as a mom I have to say, it's scarey to turn my kids loose outside all day. I worry about today's society. Neighbors are not watching each other's kids like they used to. And I certainly can't neglect my chores, job search responsibilities, and meal preparations in order to be out there with them every minute of the day. In fact, today we can't even trust our neighbors. I've heard too many storys of children being kidnapped out of their own yards or while riding their bikes. And sometimes the child is being held in the basement of the neighbors house, while the neighbor pretends to help look for the child. I may be a little paranoid- but my kids are safe. They only go out when I am able to keep a really close eye on them. I do prefer them to play inside for this reason- unless I am able to be outside with them or we make a family trip to the park. I do believe in playing board games, cards, dancing to music, reading, and playing inside rather than watching TV all day though. I like the video games from WII and XBox that require movement and encourage those as well.

    I want a YMCA membership, but it is too expensive. I applied for financial assistance and they were only willing to reduce the monthy fee by $10. That certainly didn't do enough to make it affordable. I want to take my kids swimming and rock wall climbing... I want them to have these experiences and I want them to learn to enjoy the gym. But when you are on a fixed income it makes it pretty challenging. If Planet Fitness can offer memberships for $10 a month with no joining fee, why can't a non-profit organization like the YMCA offer something better than $50 a month and a joining fee for a family of 3? It's ridiculous. I do partly blame communities and society in general for this epidemic.

    My son is in scouts and my daughter is in gymnastics. My son is overweight, but not obese. I don't buy many sweets for the house- but they get candy at school all the time, I can't be there with him to make sure he makes the right choices at lunch time, I can't... - 1/28/2013 9:55:52 AM
  • Great article~ It is tough because in my home the children are exposed to healthy foods and I play regularly with them (Wii, frisbee, walks, biking). However their father is very overweight and does not exercise. Additionally at his house they don't eat very well. I'm only hoping that they keep following a positive example because I do agree that, while outside factors influence what kids eat, they can only eat what is in the house - and that is brought in by the adults.

    Take some responsibility - 1/28/2013 9:10:12 AM
  • @PIXIESTIX6669 I quit my gym and joined a yoga studio instead, took up half marathon training and renewed my commitment to meditation, picked up my pace on Sparkpeople and went to more dance classes with better teachers. Quitting the gym has done me a world of good, because I'm not influenced by antifat bias. It wasn't a bunch of sheep just being stupid, this was a trainer who trained instructors and had won awards from the industry, so for me, after laying an official complaint and being bullied, it was no longer a safe place to be. Meanwhile, I've learned to take responsibility for my own health, nutrition and fitness using reliable sources of inspiration and education. So, that was the opportunity and I took it. If they gym doesn't do it for ya, get outta there. Thanks for your encouragement! - 4/15/2012 4:54:58 PM
  • I'm an obese adult and I was an obese child. I was skinny as a rail until the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. My sister's followed the same trend as did most of my cousins. I prayed that my kids would take after their father who was tall and skinny. So far out of the 4 of them only one seems to be more stocky, but is not obese. He was headed that way but through the advise of a nutritionist, it was determined to try to prevent him from gaining weight and as he grew it would even out. I really like that advice and he is doing well. I don't talk about calories with my kids, but serving sizes. When my daughter wants chips I tell her to take a serving and she knows what a serving is. I specifically tell her not to eat out of the bag. Also, I don't buy chips that often. I think little things like that make a big difference. One day I will be able to say that I am no longer obese and I hope my kids will be able to say that they never were. - 4/12/2012 11:23:52 AM
  • I completely agree that children should not be singled out if the rest of the family is unhealthy. That behavior is emotionally damaging and can lead to eating disorders. If a child, or anyone is overweight, it's best to look for what's misaligned in our/their lives, emotionally too. Limit TV time, make sure the family is getting ALL of the nutrition that it needs and daily recommended fun-time exercise. Diet is a dirty word, healthy lifestyle changes to enable us to live the best lives, that's what we all need to continue to focus on. - 3/29/2012 8:35:01 AM
  • Excellent article. - 3/20/2012 9:14:45 AM
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