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Monday, May 14, 2012

Myths About Kids and Weight

In conjunction with the HBO documentary “Weight of the Nation,” WebMD is examining some of the issues surrounding the nation’s obesity crisis. In this piece, WebMD expert pediatrician Hansa Bhargava, M.D., talks about some of the myths she hears from parents about children and weight. Bhargava is the spokesperson for WebMD FIT and Raising FIT Kids, which are dedicated to raising healthy children.

Hansa Bhargava MD

Did you know that this current generation of kids may be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents? Think about that. We may outlive our children.

It’s a sobering fact. As a pediatrician, I really worry about this. Recently, I saw a 10-year-old boy in my office for leg pain. He was overweight and limping. Many parents would think a 10-year-old boy with a limp had an injury from a soccer game or maybe sprained his ankle while playing basketball. Unfortunately, his problem was much worse: he had a hip fracture. Can you imagine a 10-year-old boy with a hip fracture? Most of us think that this happens to older people. But now, because of excess weight, we are seeing more and more kids with this type of problem, as well as diabetes, liver disease, and high blood pressure.

As a mom, I’m really concerned, too. More than a third of our kids are already overweight or obese, as are adults. In less than two decades,  42%  of our nation will be obese. Despite these stark numbers, I still talk to many parents who are in denial about the severity of the problem and how families can get healthier. Here are some of the myths I encounter with parents:

* Juice is good for you. NOT TRUE all the time. Juice often contains as much sugar as a soda. Get rid of any sugary beverages  in your kitchen, and limit juice. Kids should drink milk or water.

* It’s ok for children to have a TV in their bedroom. NOT TRUE. This bad habit has been linked to childhood obesity in many studies. Get rid of it, and your child will be forced to move around. As an added bonus:  no unhealthy food ads for them to watch.

* It’s okay for parents to eat junk foods as long as the kids aren’t.  NOT TRUE. If you or another caregiver is eating badly, the kids will learn that too. Actions speak louder than words, so remember to practice healthy habits, and the kids will too!

* Kids don’t want to do things as a family. NOT TRUE.  Many studies have shown that family time can lead to happier, more grounded, less overweight kids.

When you combine a bad diet, food company marketing ($1 billion a year toward kids), kids being on media seven hours a day, and a lack of exercise and sleep, it’s no wonder we are where we are.We need to make a change!

Prevention and healthy habits can fuel that change. As a working mom, I know how crazy life can get! My six-year old twins are always challenging me: “Mom, do we have to eat this?” Or when I pick them up from school: “Please, can we go to the donut shop? I’m so hungry!” It’s hard to resist their pleas, but it is the most important thing that you can do. We need to help our kids be at a healthy weight so that they don’t get diabetes, hip fractures, and other diseases.

Remember, it’s not too late. As moms and caregivers, we can make a difference. For the sake of our children, lets do it!

Posted by: Hansa Bhargava, MD at 5:16 pm

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