Child obesity is plague wide-spreading at an uncontrollable rate.
Recent data shows that child obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. With the percentage of children aged between 6 and 11 years in the US who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008; and the percentage obese adolescents increased from 5% to 18% in the same period of time. This means that 1 out of 5 kids in the US is obese.
If you add to these figures also overweight kids it goes above 30%; in other words 1 every 3 kids (or between four and five millions).
The risks associated with child obesity are numerous: higher risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, likelyhood of pre-diabetes, greater risk for bone and joint problems, not to mention the social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Over the last couple of years I spoke with several parents of obese/overweight kids that struggled to help their kids losing weight.
They asked me for friendly advice on nutrition, exercising ideas, etc. for their kids. One common denominator was that they were pretty desperate because they couldn’t find a way to be really helpful as kids are often are unresponsive to their parents solicitations.
Truth is, they were ready to give up because they couldn’t cope with it.
In few cases, especially when I already knew the kids pretty well (i.e., daughters/sons of my parents’ friends) I took them under my wing, acted as their older brother, and ultimately succeeded in helping them lose significant amount of weight (actually two of those kids are now pretty good triathletes).
However during those experiences I realized one thing: that the kids were willing to lose weight because they took me as an example and wanted to “be like me”. Without knowing it I led them by example. That was really the key to success.
And that precisely what a study, just published in the advanced online edition of the journal Obesity, found out: the key contributor to the success of a child's weight loss in family-based treatment of childhood obesity is a parent's weight change.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and The University of Minnesota looked at things such as parenting skills and styles, or changing the home food environment, and how those impacted a child’s weight. What they found out is that the number 1 way in which parents can help an obese child lose weight is to lose weight themselves: this was the most important predictor of child weight loss.
"Parents are the most significant people in a child's environment, serving as the first and most important teachers" said Kerri N. Boutelle, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at UC San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego "They play a significant role in any weight-loss program for children, and this study confirms the importance of their example in establishing healthy eating and exercise behaviors for their kids."
The study focused on evaluating the impact of three types of parenting skills taught in family-based behavioral treatment for childhood obesity, and the impact of each on the child's body weight: the parent modeling behaviors to promote their own weight loss, changes in home food environment, and parenting style and techniques (for example, a parent's ability to help limit the child's eating behavior, encouraging the child and participating in program activities).
Consistent with previously published research, parent weight drop was the only significant predictor of child's weight loss.
The researchers concluded that parents losing weight is the best way to help their overweight or obese child in weight management.
Parents: the best way to help your kids is to start helping yourself, easy as that!
The Iron You