Professional doctors classify a child as “obese” when they have a body mass index well above the average for kids their age and height. It is estimated that at least 15% of American kids are overweight and that number has risen consisently over the past years. As a result, more families are beginning to use outside services, such as weight loss camps, to help the kids reach a healthy weight.
Below, I’ve identified four of the most common contributing factors to child weight gain to help kids and parents identify things in their lives they can change to work towards a heatheir existence.
The first factor that can contribute to overweight children is their eating habits. Kids that eat a lot of junk foods and snacks are more likely to develop weight problems than those that eat well balanced meals every day. If you question the amount of junk food and snacks that children eat, I challenge you to stop by your local high school one day during lunch hour and look at what the kids are eating. Further, research has shown that families that eat the majority of their meals at home are less likely to have overweight children than families that eat at a lot of restaurants and fast food chains on a regular basis.
Exercise is as important as a good diet in children. Children need to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (60 minutes is strongly recommended) yet many do not. Many children live sedentary lifestyles that involve a lot of time watching TV, playing video games, and sitting in front of a computer. These activities are often done in conjunction with eating snacks which make them doubly unhealthy.
Biology can also play a role in children having weight problems, although not as much as some people think. Kids with overweight parents are more likely to become obese partly due to biological factors such as metabolism. However, the shocking reality is that most of these kids develop weight problems due to the poor role modeling that their parents do. Overweight parents are less likely to encourage healthy eating and exercise in their children because they are not lifestyle choices that they make themselves. Thus, it should be no surprise that children of overweight parents grow up and develop bad eating and exercise habits, which lead to weight problems of their own. In most cases, the poor parental role modeling plays a much larger role in a child becoming overweight than actual genetics do.
Finally, one of the more overlooked contributing factors to childhood obestiy is sleep. Children that get enough sleep at night are less likely to develop weight problems than those that never get an adequate amount of sleep at night. As a rule, children should get 8 hours of sleep at night and infants and toddlers need as much as 12 hours a day.
There are other factors that lead to childhood obesity that are beyond the scope of this article. Children that struggle to maintain a healthy weight at home due to poor diet, exercise, sleep, and parental role models often benefit greatly from attending a summer weight loss camp. These camps aim to provide children with the knowledge and confidence needed to make healthy living decisions when they return home, despite the poor environment that they may live in.