Childhood Obesity Affects Mind and Body

What determines if a child is obese?

How do you know if your child is considered “obese” and not just overweight? It’s a good question to ask in September, which is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The answer lies in a measurement called BMI or Body Mass Index. Health practitioners use a special formula to calculate BMI – based on a child’s sex, height, and weight – to determine if a kid or teen is at a normal weight, is overweight, or has crept into that unhealthy territory known as obesity.

BMI is not the only factor a doctor will take into consideration, but it’s a good indicator and a starting point for discussion. So, getting a conversation started is good, but follow-up action is also highly recommended to try to get your child back to a healthy weight. That’s because being obese in childhood is associated with many risks, both physical and psychological.

Physical effects:

  • Kids who are obese are likely to remain obese as adults, facing serious health consequences throughout their lives.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem among obese kids. In fact, the number of kids who’ve developed Type 2 diabetes is 3 times what it was in the 1970s, demonstrating how big the problem of obesity’s grown here in the U.S.
  • Muscle and joint pain, due to the stress of extra pounds.
  • Sleep apnea, asthma, and other breathing problems.
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, both factors that lead to cardiovascular disease (problems with the heart and blood vessels).
  • Foot problems, including flat feet, plantar fasciitis, and Sever’s disease – inflammation of the growth plate in the heel.

Psychological effects:

  • Obese kids have higher rates of depression and anxiety.
  • They themselves report that they suffer from low self-esteem.
  • They’re more subject to bullying in school.

What you can do

  • Begin that conversation with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Instill good eating habits, practice portion control, and choose foods that are low in calories but high in volume, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide opportunities for physical activity and limit screen time. Use the resources of the web to download a children’s screen time log.
  • At the first sign of foot pain, contact Heidi M. Christie and Dr. Chanda L. Day-Houts, the caring podiatrists at Montgomery Foot Care Specialists. Our number in Montgomery, Alabama is (334) 396-3668.