Myths About Childhood Obesity

Myths About Childhood Obesity

Believing myths and misinformation about childhood obesity could keep your child from reaching and keeping a healthy weight. Get the facts.

By Melissa Chen, MD, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

Don't let myths and misinformation about obesity keep your child from reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Separate fact from fiction to help your child get on the path to better health.

What are some myths about childhood obesity?

  • Overweight children are to blame for their weight problem. Many people believe obesity occurs in those who are weak and overindulge in food. However, several factors work together to cause weight gain, including:
    • Genetics. A person's basal metabolic rate (the rate that we burn calories at rest) is determined in part by heredity. People with lower metabolic rates burn fewer calories. When more calories are eaten than are burned, the extra calories are stored as fat.
    • Behavioral choices. Lack of physical activity, along with poor food choices and larger portion sizes, are important factors in weight gain. More "screen time" (watching TV or playing video games) leads to less active play and fewer calories burned. Also, choosing on high-fat or high-sugar foods and sugary drinks adds extra calories.
    • Environmental factors. Your home environment can influence your child's food choices and physical activity. Remember, you are a role model for your children. They are likely to follow your example.
  • Obesity runs in the family, so there's nothing you can do about it. Some parents are not worried about their child's extra weight because everyone in their family is big. But obesity may lead to health problems, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Despite their genetic inheritance, most children can reach and maintain a healthy weight with nutritious eating and more physical activity.
  • Overweight children should be put on a diet. Fad diets and diet pills may be dangerous to your child's health. Never put a child on a weight-loss plan without a doctor's guidance. The goal for overweight kids and teens is to slow weight gain while allowing for normal growth and development. Work with your child's doctor to find the best plan for safe, long-term weight control.
  • Overweight children will outgrow the weight. Depending on your child's eating habits and activity level, he or she will probably continue to gain weight, not lose it, while growing. Overweight kids and teens are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.
  • Overweight children need to eat more food to stay healthy. Larger food portions are not healthier. One of the keys to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is moderation and portion control. Talk with your child's doctor about the right portion sizes to limit weight gain yet keep your child healthy and growing normally.

How can I help my overweight child?
Don't believe the myths. Get your child on the path to wellness by encouraging healthy eating habits and regular physical activity. Your doctor can help you make a plan that is right for your child.

Sources:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Childhood obesity: common misconceptions. Accessed: 07/28/2010
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for parents - ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight. Accessed: 07/28/2010
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood overweight and obesity. Accessed: 07/28/2010
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Organic causes of weight gain and obesity. Accessed: 07/28/2010

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