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Childhood obesity- a tricky topic for parents and physicians

Photo credit: http://www.healthychild.org/
Photo credit: http://www.healthychild.org/

There’s no doubt we have a problem in this country, and the scariest thing is that we are looking at the possibility of a generation of children who will not outlive their parents. The world we live in is so fast paced, we hardly have time to get the kids from school, to sports practice, music lessons and sleep, let alone plan healthy, organic, home made meals and snacks for ourselves and our children. I see it in my office all the time, and it’s a topic that can be very difficult to broach with families. Weight is a sensitive issue for the majority of us, and having a child who is overweight can be a big struggle for parents, torn between trying to help their child be healthier but also not wanting to emphasize weight and cause the child to be focused on this in an unhealthy way. But the fact of the matter is overweight and obese children and adolescents are much more likely to stay obese as adults, which puts them at risk for chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, curtains cancers and arthritis, to name a few.

Now for some scary stats- childhood obesity rates have DOUBLED in children and QUADRUPLED in adolescents in the past 30 years. More than ONE THIRD of children and adolescents in the US were considered overweight or obese in 2012.
So what is considered overweight or obese? This isn’t quite as straight forward to determine in children as it is in adults, and is based on the growth charts your providers use to plot your child’s growth for their age. A BMI equal to or greater than the 85th percentile to the 95th percentile is considered overweight, and a BMI greater than the 95th percentile is considered obese. Here is a BMI calculator for children.

My child is obese? What do I do?? As I said above, this is a really difficult topic for providers to broach with parents, and takes a lot of sensitivity and from our perspective, gauging how ready the family is for change. We don’t recommend you put your child on a diet. Because let’s face it, “diets” typically don’t produce long lasting results for anyone; what it really takes to lose weight in the long term is changing your relationship with food and the choices you make on a daily basis.

Start with small things, such as “We are going to go from eating out 3 times a week to once a week”. Then start integrating more healthy choices, like “I am going to switch the bread tonight for broccoli”. The main focus for most kids is not really weight loss, more so stopping the upward trend in weight, so we really put an emphasis on healthier choices and more exercise so they grow into their bodies. These small changes can make a big impact in a growing child’s life. Don’t be afraid to bring this up with your child’s doctor, or your own! We have many tools and resources to help you get on the right track to keep your family healthy.

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About Amanda Magrini

Amanda Magrini
Amanda Magrini, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Northern Nevada Medical Group’s Los Altos location in Sparks. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Reno and her medical training at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. Dr. Magrini has practiced family medicine for seven years, including residency, and enjoys her specialty, because she likes taking care of the whole family, from newborns to grandparents. She likes preventative medicine, helping people take care of themselves and the relationships she is able to form with her patients. Dr. Magrini grew up in Sparks, NV and likes that it is a safe place to live with great educational opportunities and beautiful scenery. She thinks Northern Nevada is a great place to raise a family and looks forward to raising her own children here. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, boating, running and traveling the world. Dr. Magrini is also very close with her family; she is married to her high school sweetheart and values spending time with him and the rest of her family. Disclosure: "The author is a licensed physician practicing with Northern Nevada Medical Group, but all opinions expressed are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Northern Nevada Medical Group or any other affiliates of Universal Health Services, Inc."

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