Doctors define childhood obesity as existing in kids that have a body mass index (BMI) that is well above average for children at that given age and height. Early last year, it was estimated that over 15% of America’s youth were overweight and that percentage is expected to continue to grow.
In this article, I have noted 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. These are also four of the more common areas addressed at a quality summer weight loss camp:
Diet – Unsurprisingly, most overweight kids have poor eating habits. Take a look at lunches that kids eat at school these days – instead of being packed with a healthy, balanced meal, many are packed with junk food and snack items. Eating out on a regular basis also contributes to weight gain in children. Kids that live with a family that eats the majority of their meals at home (all sitting down to eat together) typically weigh less than children whose families eat out several times a week.
Activity Level – Times have changed since parents with overweight children would often send them to a fat camp for kids where they would be subjected to an immense amount of physical activity to help them lose weight. The way that camps operate today has changed significantly, but the bottom line is that most kids that are overweight do not get enough exercise. The amount of physical activity that a child gets is directly related to whether or not they develop weight problems. Children that spend their free time sitting around the house watching TV or playing video games instead of playing sports or other forms of exercise are much more likely to become obese. At a minimum, children should get 30 minutes of exercise every day, with 60 minutes or more being preferable.
Genetics – 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.
Lack of Sleep – Not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain in children because it leads to an inactive lifestyle – kids that don’t get enough rest are often “too tired” to participate in activities that burn calories. Previously this was believed in adults but recent studies have shown that this is also true in children as well. Infants and toddlers that get fewer than 12 hours of sleep are more likely to gain weight.
These four factors are the things that parents of overweight children should be concerned with. Children that struggle with proper diet, exercise, and sleep and have poor parental role models often benefit from attending teen weight loss camps where they can separate themselves from their poor home environment and focus on learning new ways of living healthily.