March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
The childhood obesity epidemic is not new. Over time, childhood obesity rates have risen gradually. Today, 1 in every 3 children is classified as overweight (defined as having a body mass index greater than the 85th percentile for age) or obese (defined as having a BMI greater than the 95th percentile for age).
Now, health care providers and pediatricians are seeing a new problem: "oblivobesity." This term, coined by Dr. David Katz, describes the situation when parents and caregivers are oblivious to their child's overweight status. A more perfect term couldn't be used to sum up what is being seen in pediatrician and specialist's offices across the United States.
In various studies, 30 to 45 percent of parents failed to recognize their child as overweight or obese. Unpublished quality initiative data from Texas Children's Hospital were consistent with those findings, with data also finding that 75 percent of these "oblivious" parents were concerned their child would be overweight in the future. Here's how you can become more aware of your child's weight issues, without forcing an obsession of weight onto your child.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Discuss your child's weight status at pediatrician appointments. Ask your family's pediatrician where your child falls on growth curves and how his or her weight compares with other children the same age.
Talk to Your Child
Encourage open dialogue with your children about healthful habits such as eating right and daily physical activity.
Get Healthy as a Family
This starts with an honest assessment of your own health status. If you are also struggling with weight, this is a perfect opportunity to get healthy together. Kids learn by role modeling — even when they appear to not be paying attention, they are! Start with these four steps.
- Shop Together
Getting your children involved in planning meals can give them a sense of fun and ownership. For example, let your children pick out one new vegetable at the grocery store for the family to try together.
- Cook Together
Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to eat a range of different foods. This time together also provides a great opportunity for parents and children to talk.
- Eat Together
Studies show that families who eat together regularly have kids with lower risks of obesity and substance abuse and higher rates of vegetable intake and increase school performance.
- Move Together
Children should see that physical activity can be fun – have family bike rides, games in the park, walks around the block, dance parties and relay races in the yard. Aim for 60 minutes a day of some sort of physical activity.
Weight can be a touchy subject for adults and children and modeling positive behaviors is a good strategy to keep your family healthy. By setting health goals as a family, you can support each other and overcome "oblivobesity" together.