If you’re a mom and lead a healthy lifestyle in five key areas, chances are your kids will maintain a healthy weight.
That’s the finding of a recent study published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), which examined a mother’s diet as well as lifestyle indicators, including her body mass index and whether or not she smoked, consumed alcohol and was physically active.
Those moms who adhered to healthy habits in these areas had children whose chance of obesity was 75 percent lower than those who didn’t.
“When a mother is a role model for positive behavior, their children soon follow. It may not happen immediately, but parents do have to lead by example,” says Dr. Bina Adigopula, a board-certified pediatrician affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
Lifestyle habits are important, but Dr. Adigopula points out that a parent’s genetic contribution may also influence whether or not a child is overweight. A child with one obese parent has a 50 percent chance of being obese; when both parents are obese, an 80 percent chance.
Other common causes of childhood obesity are lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns or a combination of these factors. Dr. Adigopula adds that obesity may also be linked to rare genetic conditions, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, which makes people feel hungry all the time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled since the 1970s and continues to rise. About 18.2 percent are overweight or obese, and many will carry that weight into adulthood, putting them at risk for diabetes, chronic heart disease or other serious conditions.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages may come as no surprise in one’s quest toward well-being, but it’s easier said than done. For most people, any type of lifestyle change can be a challenge.
Dr. Adigopula says she sees it often in her practice, but it can be done.
“When families decide to lose weight together, we see the best results,” she says. “When parents exercise regularly and adopt a healthier lifestyle, the whole family benefits.”
Here are four tips she offers parents and caregivers to help kids maintain a healthy weight:
- Decrease your intake of fast food and processed foods. These foods have more calories, sugar and salt, which can pack on the pounds for kids and adults.
- Try to eat five servings of fresh fruits and veggies every day. Fruits and veggies contain nutrients that a child’s body needs to grow.
- Discover myplate.gov, a program that offers ideas and tips to find a healthy eating style that includes the five food groups.
- Encourage your child to participate in activities that are fun and get them moving for at least 45 minutes daily.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Bina Adigopula, board-certified pediatrician, about childhood obesity for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.