Nutrition-wise blog

Perspectives on childhood obesity

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. September 15, 2010

When I began my career as a dietitian, it was very rare that a child was ever put on a diet. It was thought that making children diet could do more harm than good. Rather, the approach was to let children grow into their weight. Today, however, the reality is that many children won't grow into their weight even at their adult height.

Children as young as 4 to 6 years are at weights that would be associated with someone 5 feet or taller. That means many years of being overweight or obese. Although I realize that weight loss may be appropriate for these children, my early training stills sends up a warning signal.

As parents and concerned community members, we must recognize and combat the dangers of childhood obesity. These dangers range from the health of our children to the financial future of our nation. An adult having an awareness of childhood obesity is one thing — a kid having an awareness of childhood obesity is another. In our concern for our children's health, we can't lose sight of what it's like to be a kid. No child likes being singled out and possibly teased about his or her appearance or health.

So as we move forward with our efforts, let's keep a focus on protecting our children. Let's be respectful and supportive. As adults, we will carry the worry about the health risks and health care costs. Kids on other hand should be taught to know that food is fuel to keep their bodies healthy. They need to see that moving and using our bodies is fun, the norm, and not a task. They need to learn to make healthy choices.

There are many exciting efforts and opportunities for schools and communities to shape kids' attitudes about food, exercise and healthy lifestyles. I'm going to share a few with you in upcoming blogs. Please, share what you and your community are doing. Maybe your idea will catch on.

To our children's health,
- Katherine

Sep. 15, 2010