Obesity is an epidemic that impacts roughly 17% of American children (or 12.7 million) and adolescents aged 2—19 years. Both parents and children need to understand that obesity is a disease that can be overcome through nutrition and physical activity. Although several factors contribute to childhood obesity, one of the most debilitating factors is emotional instability or low self-esteem. Dietary needs also impact whether or not a child becomes obese.
In this article, my patient will attest that obesity can be overcome through education, emotional support, and healthy eating habits.
NOTE: With respect to all my patients’ confidentiality, the quoted individual’s name has been changed.
‘Overweight’ and ‘obesity’ are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. My patient Laura’s struggled with childhood obesity, which ultimately led to her to become an obese adult, weighing a dangerous 300lbs before reaching her 40s. “I was ten years old when I started gaining weight, but I was twelve when I was diagnosed as obese,” said Laura, “I’m 44 now, and started losing weight about five years ago.”
Consistent exercise to combat childhood obesity may help in the long run but children need consistency. “When I was growing up, my grandmother would try to be helpful and tell me I needed to exercise, but in the next breath she would say, ‘Have a sugar cookie that I made for you’.”
Like many obese Americans, Laura knew she was unhealthy and desperately wanted to change, but without a strong emotional support system or consistency, she continued to struggle with obesity.
Emotions play a major role human decision making, especially when making dietary choices. For those suffering from obesity, the emotional toll can be unbearable. Laura’s relationship with her ex-husband contributed to her low self-esteem and inability to eat healthy and exercise.
“My ex-husband was obese, and no matter how hard I would try to not eat unhealthy foods, he would sabotage it by buying fast food,” Laura explained, “It was a never ending cycle of let’s get what’s convenient, let’s not plan healthy meals.”
Once Laura left the emotionally destructive relationship, and moved on to a more nurturing and supportive one, she was able to focus on making better lifestyle choices. As soon as a support system is put in place, children and adults suffering from obesity oftentimes refocus their attention on healthier dietary choices and exercise.
“A lot of my family tried several different things to help me lose weight, but didn’t understand the sabotaging behavior of my ex-husband,” said Laura, “When I met my current husband, he encouraged me every step of the way. I started feeling better about myself, saying “I am beautiful and I am pretty.”
When Laura’s emotional state changed for the better, she was able to stick to her diet and change her eating habits. Laura remembered her old ways and said, “I would buy a two-pound bag of M&M’s and snack crackers. I don’t do that anymore.”
Just as emotional eating is not good for children, fad diets are not recommended to combat obesity or to lose a few pounds. Laura found out firsthand that they do not work, “I did try a protein only diet and those helped for awhile until you stop eating the protein, and start adding other things.”
Although fad diets do not work, I have developed a healthy eating program to help my patients that has gotten visibly healthy results and rave reviews called The Step Up Diet. I recommend it to every patient that comes to the Pediatric Center of Round Rock because it works!
Childhood obesity can have devastating repercussions if left unaddressed, but there is help. Don’t let your child become a statistic! Learn from Laura’s sincere testimony, and place your child on a healthier track today.