From the dining table to the cafeteria, children are falling victim to unhealthy eating habits. With children surpassing the category of overweight into obese, it is no mistake to look at the rising trend of increased body weight percentages and the impact on mental health disorders. As 1 out of 3 children are being considered obese, conditions such as diabetes, health blood pressure, and cancer will be a struggle for our youth and future generations.
Factors such as low-self esteem, depression and defiant behavior have all been common consequences of children with chronic obesity that can continue onto adulthood. Although the focus of physical education through nutrition classes, required exercise in the school system and doctor visits are beneficial ways to combat obesity, ignoring the mental health issues could repress any successful long term goals for the child. Another issue that is raising concerns for both children and their parents is bullying within the school system.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers the following advice:
- "Help children understand that being overweight can undermine physical and mental health and is more than an appearance issue;
- Talk to children about why they overeat and how they feel about themselves. Identify feelings and situations that cause them to overeat, and discuss coping strategies;
- Criticizing an obese child or trying to humiliate them into losing weight will increase the child's emotional difficulties. The child may become lonelier, more depressed, and less likely to make changes that might help;
- Praise your child's strengths and accomplishments;
- Help children gain control over their weight by discussing and encouraging healthy food choices and exercising regularly with them. Individualize food and exercise plans according to the child's interests and your commitment level;
- Set an example – make healthy eating and exercise a family affair;
- Encourage children to make smart choices and understand the benefits of feeling better and being healthier. Explain the long-term medical impacts of a healthy lifestyle;
- Limit access to high-calorie, high-fat and sugary foods, including soda and juices--especially at home;
- Limit sedentary activities including television and computer time; and
- Do not use food to reward or punish children. Establish a system to reward weight goals and help the child get back on track when they fall off.”
For more information on childhood obesity, check out Michelle Obama's campaign Let's Move! at letsmove.gov and stay tuned for Metta World Peace health tips