How does childhood obesity work?

Succeeding with Healthy Habits

Turning a blind eye to a child's excess weight and planning to address it later means that he or she will face a battle with the scale well into adulthood. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of being an obese or overweight adult [source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services].

The best time to try to turn things around is right now. And you can find motivation by taking a look at statistics from the other side. Take one study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Harvard University. Researchers there showed that when overweight girls from a study group of 110,000 lost weight before growing up, they didn't just lose pounds -- they also lowered their chances of getting type 2 diabetes [source: National Institutes of Health].

The two best steps to take for getting to your goal are to improve your child's diet and increase physical activity. Your health care provider can give you detailed guidance, but below are a few diet and activity suggestions to get you started:

  • Watch portion sizes and limit access to foods high in sugar.
  • Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your child's diet.
  • Select whole-grain foods.
  • Target healthy protein sources through beans, fish, poultry or lean meat.
  • Create opportunities for a variety of exercises that are fun, such as dancing, swimming, hiking and jumping rope.
  • Limit sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games.
  • Make it a family affair; get everyone moving together.

[source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Looking for other ideas on nutrition and physical activity? Check out the United States Department of Agriculture's and First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program.

Addressing your child's health now will lead to a lifetime of sound choices. But you'll also be helping everyone in the family, and together, you can achieve your goal of a healthier life.

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