Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 44-Pound Baby – Childhood Obesity

Recently as I read the news, I saw an article detailing a family member’s plight to overcome obesity.  That’s not news, right?  That’s a common occurrence nowadays.  This story is special. Unfortunately, the person battling his weight is an 8 month-old baby boy.

You may have heard about this story (or one like it because there have been other babies battling their weight in China, Iran, England, etc.)   A mother in Columbia sought medical help for her baby who at 8 months-old weighs a whopping 44 pounds – almost three times what he should weigh at his age and the average weight of a kindergartener.  Since birth, every time that he has cried, she has fed him. 

According to the Chubby Hearts Foundation (the medical group assisting the family), there's no medical reason for the child's astounding weight gain - he's just been overfed with constant bottles of formula. "He is a compulsive eater," said Dr. Salvador Palacio, the foundation's director.
Sadly, this parent has unknowingly created a compulsive eater as a baby.  And, this boy will forever battle his weight and appetite.

Thanks goodness that his mother sought medical help to intervene at this early age.  Not only does his extreme weight put him at risk for diabetes or a heart attack as a baby, his weight makes it difficult for him to crawl and roll over, hindering his development. His mother says he's also susceptible to fungal infections in the fat folds of his skin.
So, what is being done to help this baby and his family?  Doctors have put the infant on a strict diet to slim him down to a healthier weight. He's been taken off baby formula in favor of vegetables and juices.  Doctors say with a healthier diet and more physical activity, he could reach a normal weight in six to twelve months.

How can parents encourage their children to be physically from the time they’re born?  In my opinion, make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family!  The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime” so children will learn to emulate their parents.  Families need to work - and play - together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships.  With an integrated approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem - and help families bond - while increasing kids' physical activity.

·    Celebrate spring and get moving!  Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to do yard work together.  (Even if your toddler just plays in the dirt with sticks.)  Studies show that you can burn about 350 calories an hour mowing the lawn or 175 calories for 30 minutes of raking the remainder of the fall leaves.  Not only will you get a great workout, your yard will look great too.

·    Rest.  Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found a correlation between childhood obesity and the amount of sleep a child receives each night.  The fewer hours of nightly sleep, the higher the risk for becoming overweight or obese.

·    Focus on your child’s health, not his weight.  Childhood and adolescence are difficult enough for most children and self-esteem can suffer – especially if the child is heavier.  Parents can help by making sure their kids are active and learn to make good food choices. 

·    Help kids read between the lines.  Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies, explains that it’s key to teach kids, even from a very young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)

·    Play actively.  It’s critical to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can).  Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and helps to prevent diabetes.  For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids - and entire family - stay fit, check out Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).

Obesity among the young isn't a problem that's going to magically fix itself. Make a difference in your kids' lives and get moving – as a family!
Is your child or family in need of fitness assistance?  Fitness for Health can help your family create a healthy, active lifestyle while having fun.  We offer customized exercise programs designed to fit your exact needs and help you reach your unique health goals. And, we offer family workouts and Open Gym playtimes so families can become active together.  Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.

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