Health Care

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Encourage Whole Health

A Doctor Speaks to Her Adolescent Patient in an Exam Room

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At AdventHealth, we’re passionate about improving the health of our children, adults and communities. And we recognize that obesity impacts so much, from decreasing your personal quality of life and longevity to increasing national and global health care costs.

Sadly, the obesity epidemic in the United States is no longer an adult-only problem. According to recent research, it’s now affecting children at higher rates and younger ages. But it doesn’t have to if you’re proactive about promoting and modeling a healthy lifestyle from the outset of your little one’s life journey.

Our children are our future, and we want them to live their dreams and be all they’re created to be. And they depend on us to help them reach their highest health potential with a wholesome foundation. That’s why we’re here to illustrate some of the ways obesity impacts a child’s whole health, and to offer hope that by encouraging healthy habits from a young age, childhood obesity can be prevented along with the health risks associated with it.

How Obesity Impacts Children’s Whole Health

Like their adult counterparts, obese children are at an increased risk for developing health conditions that can affect them in body, mind and spirit for life. Keep reading to learn about why it’s so important to prevent and address childhood obesity with a healthy lifestyle.

Physical Impacts

Children who are obese are more susceptible to illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as they mature. Excess weight can also contribute to painful joint problems, sleep apnea and hormone imbalances that can disrupt other areas of their lives as well. They’re also more likely to be obese as adults.

Emotional Impacts

Children with obesity are more likely to experience low self-esteem, body image issues and psychological illnesses like anxiety and depression. There is also a high prevalence of obese children developing unhealthy dieting practices and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Social Impacts

Negative social stigmas surrounding obesity can worsen a child’s already fragile emotional well-being and create even more complex challenges with their mental health. They are more likely to be bullied, which leads to less social support and a lack of the sense of community we all require to thrive.

Any social isolation experienced leads to lower overall quality of life based on self-reporting, according to the CDC. Obese children can also be excluded from participation in certain activities due to both physical and emotional limitations, along with social exclusion by peers.

Tips for Preventing and/or Addressing Childhood Obesity

Addressing childhood obesity takes a family and community effort that involves encouraging a healthy lifestyle. By normalizing healthy living as a society and modeling it ourselves as parents and caregivers, our children will learn to live it. Consider implementing the following ideas:

Regular Physical Activity

By promoting regular physical activity through age-appropriate activities that kids enjoy, such as sports, playing together and taking family walks, you can help make “working out” fun and natural for your little ones.

It’s important to limit screen time as well as it encourages a sedentary lifestyle.

Role Modeling and Family Support

We as parents and caregivers can lead by example by adopting healthy habits ourselves and following through. Provide support, encouragement and create a supportive environment that promotes healthy choices for the entire family and community (such as school community, church community, neighborhood gatherings, etc.).

Community Engagement

You can actively collaborate with schools, health care providers and community organizations to implement wellness programs, physical education initiatives and nutrition education. Advocate for policies that support healthy food environments and increased physical activity opportunities for children in schools. You can even host community events in your neighborhood like group family walks, sports competitions, pool parties and more to keep your kids active through play and fun. The sky is the limit.

Don’t Wait on Encouraging a Healthy Weight

Our team of specialists at the AdventHealth for Children Pediatric Weight Loss program understands all aspects of weight loss and management for children and teens. We can help your child achieve and maintain a healthy weight while avoiding associated physical and mental health concerns.

Learn more about how we can help your child achieve a lifetime of wellness through healthy choices, together.

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