Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tracey Clayton. Learn more about the role of family in preventing childhood obesity…
One of the greatest threats facing children of today is certainly obesity. Albeit the condition may be caused by a number of factors, the health risks of child obesity have immense physiological, but also psychological repercussions.
Over time, these risks become even greater as they can transit into adulthood, with even more serious, even deadly aliments. As problematic as it sounds, obesity can be inhibited through familial and environmental factors. Due to this, we take a look at how the family can help in preventing childhood obesity.
Psychological Factors Behind Obesity
From genetic factors to social factors, the reasons behind child obesity are many. However, in most cases child obesity is prompted by psychological unrest, or even disorders. These can vary from a way to overcome sadness or depression, to triggering more serious Body Dysmorphic Disorders (BDD) like Anorexia Nervosa, bulimia, and most of all binge-eating. Since every psychological problem is also physiological, there are also neurological effects of food. When eating, serotonin and dopamine are released in the hypothalamus which improve mood and emotional feeling. Children therefore might use food as a way to comfort themselves during anxious situations and during stress.
Promoting a Healthy Eating Behavior
The familial role in promoting healthy food behavior can be first seen through role-modeling. During their early years, kids look towards parents when learning, and start replicating their behavior. Children who are exposed to unhealthy eating habits, such as skipping meals, over-eating during a single meal or throughout the course of the day, tend to mimic that behavior. Unhealthy eating habits can be a real source of distress and lead to obesity. In creating an environment at home that values the importance of meals and meal time, is the first step in reducing the chance of obesity in children.
Raising Self-Confidence to Prevent Obesity
Another role family plays in preventing obesity, especially parents, has to do with children’s self-worth. Kids who battle with low self-esteem tend to find comfort in food, as a way of disassociating with problems. In working on boosting kids’ confidence, and teaching them how to overcome anxious moments in life with a head held high, can be a sure way of eliminating over-dependence on food.
Providing Realistic Stability
Children are also prone to concern themselves with others’ perceptions, especially significant people in their lives like parents. Falling short of high expectations set by parents can be a way of ruining a child’s self-worth, which can lead to guilt and shame lead to obesity. Combined with the ideals of perfection set by society, kids can see themselves as worthless to all people, but more importantly to the people who matter most. Therefore, setting realistic expectations of your child, even when it is obese, might be a slow process, but children will ultimately never question the love and devotion you foster for them.
Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
From food to exercise, family members need to promote healthy lifestyles to their children. Creating an event around every meal and highlighting their importance can lead to a healthy eating behavior. Also, because children are less active than they used to be, it is also significant to promote the value of physical activity. Exercising also has the ability to increase dopamine levels. Creating fun events like the ever more popular soccer parties, exciting nerf games, or trampolines can be a great way of getting kids to enjoy exercising.
Obesity among contemporary children has also been linked with boredom. Since working parents have less time to take care of their children on a daily basis, children are often left in front of the TV or video games. This over-stimulation means kids get bored more easily, and can find stimulation in food. In order to solve this many experts emphasize the importance of pre-school facilities, and day care centers as a way to improve and maintain healthy development.
Ultimately, there are a number of other environmental, genetic, physiological and psychological affects that can trigger obesity during childhood. However, the role of families during childhood is so immense, that it can sometimes be the key solution in preventing child obesity.
Tracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She feels she knows a thing or two about raising happy, healthy and confident kids, and offers helpful advice in hers parenting articles. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”