The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a difficult situation for parents in Toronto and across the country. Social isolation remains one of the most important methods for mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many parents are continuing to keep their children home from school and prohibit normal forms of social contact. That’s great for reducing the spread of the coronavirus, but it’s having an unintended consequence: increasing rates of child obesity.
If your child is already overweight, don’t give up. There are plenty of things parents can do to help their children stay active. That’s true even when access to school or regional sports activities is limited. A combination of increased physical activity and better nutrition may be enough to keep already-fit children in shape.
For those children already suffering from childhood obesity, a visit to a Toronto Weight Loss Clinic can help even more. Get in touch to discuss your options today by calling 416-221-1583 or booking a free consultation in-person or online.
The Underlying Problem
Weight gain has been a problem for many Canadians during the pandemic. Some are even referring to their added pounds as the “quarantine 15.” Unfortunately, child obesity is no joke. Being overweight in childhood increases the chances that you will become obese as an adult. Obesity leaves you predisposed to developing a range of more serious health conditions.
It can increase the risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
- Mental illness
- And other serious problems
Parents want what’s best for their children. In this case, that means helping them attain and maintain a healthy weight to prepare for becoming a healthy adult.
Weight gain has both genetic and environmental components. It’s true that some people, including children, are predisposed to gain extra weight, especially during times of stress. However, pediatricians are noting that their young patients are gaining weight across the board. That points to environmental, rather than genetic, factors.
The primary problem is that most parents rely on their children’s schools and after-school programs in normal times. Now, most of these athletic programs are shut down. Parents who want to play an active role in helping to keep their children healthy are being forced to step up. Many have no idea what to do, and just about everyone has too much on their plates, already.
Obesity and Risk of COVID-19 Complications
For the last year, scientists have learned a lot about COVID-19. They’ve learned that while COVID-19 remains rare in children, obesity can be a risk factor for developing complications.
Experts believe there is a combination of factors that lead to worse clinical outcomes for obese children. Obese children are more likely to suffer from comorbidities like hypertension and dyslipidemia. They also tend to have less lean insulin resistance, more adipose tissue, and higher pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. All these factors are associated with immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular damage.
Obese children are more likely than their peers to experience severe complications from COVID-19. They may include the need for ventilation or intubation, a higher risk of thromboembolism, changes in immune response, and a more prolonged recovery. In other words, if there was ever a time to encourage weight loss, it’s now.
What to Do About It?
The first step is to come up with a plan. It’s important to avoid shaming your child about his or her weight gain. Just like adults, children are feeling the stress of the pandemic. They’ve had their lives turned upside down, and it should come as no surprise that many are stress-eating.
As a parent, your job is to offer support, advice, and compassion. You can start by encouraging more activity. It can help to incorporate physical activity into the family’s lifestyle. Keep in mind, however, that children ages six to 17 need more vigorous and frequent exercise than adults.
School-aged children should be getting at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day. They should also engage in a range of exercises for maximum effectiveness. The best way to get kids started on new exercise routines is to get them, personal trainers. You can contact us at 416-221-1583 to speak with a dedicated weight loss expert who can help.
Most of your child’s 60 minutes of physical activity should involve aerobic exercise. While it’s still warm enough, try encouraging activities like bike riding or going for runs with the family dog.
You may also have to get more creative as temperatures drop. If your child doesn’t love ice skating, try virtual classes. Learning how to dance or perform martial arts can be considered a moderate-to-intense aerobic activity. Plus, your kids will love the classes.
Strength Training Activities
All children and adolescents should perform muscle-strengthening activities as part of their daily workouts at least three times per week. If you already perform strength training workouts, now would be a great time to get your kids involved.
Keep in mind that younger children may need to start with easier exercises. Have them try beginner push-ups instead of regular ones, for example, or spot them while they are performing pull-ups. Younger children respond especially well to being included in their parents’ exercise routines.
Don’t love strength training yourself? You should be leading by example, but if you don’t have the time, that’s fine. Encouraging kids to climb trees, play tug-of-war, or even swing on playground equipment can do the trick for younger children.
Most bone-strengthening activities combine aerobic exercise and strength training. The difference is that they focus on building bone mass as well as toning muscles. Examples of activities that fall into this category include gymnastics, jumping rope, running, and even skipping.
Your older children can also incorporate resistance bands or body-weight exercises into their daily routines. Children should perform bone-strengthening or weight-bearing activities at least three times per week.
Adolescents and Exercise
If you’re raising a teenager, you might be wondering how all of this applies to your family. Chances are, your teen won’t be interested in learning your yoga routine or going out to climb trees. If you’re having trouble getting your teenager up and moving, don’t despair. It may just take a different approach.
Here are a few things you can try:
Don’t call teenagers out on their weight. Instead, offer helpful information about how valuable physical activity is. Not all teens are aware of the benefits of regular exercise. Let them know that physical activities aren’t just for fun. Frequent exercise can also help with stress, improve sleep, and even make it easier to focus while studying.
Suggest the Right Activities
Try to brainstorm activities that will appeal to teens’ interests and won’t feel too overwhelming. Adolescents who are already struggling with obesity may also have self-esteem problems. Attempting workout routines that are way too hard will only teach them learned helplessness. They’ll stop trying and will assume there’s just nothing they can do.
Emphasize Small Goals
Instead of telling a teen to get up and moving for an hour every day, start with smaller goals. Think about it like this: if you got up and went for a five-minute run one day and felt pretty good afterward, you’d be more likely to repeat it. Add five more minutes each week, and you’d be running for half an hour in just a month and a half. Plus, you wouldn’t be pushing yourself so hard you’d feel destined for failure.
Be a Good Role Model
If you prioritize physical activity, your children probably will, too. That’s because teens are especially predisposed to an observational learning mechanism known as indirect modeling. Teens who grow up with active parents are more likely to exercise or participate in sports voluntarily.
There’s a common misconception that children who suffer from obesity just eat too much. In reality, that’s rarely the case. Most obese people of any age aren’t over-eating. They’re eating the wrong foods.
As a parent, you need to make sure your child is getting adequate nutrition. It can be unsafe to place a child on a fad diet. Instead, focus on making family-wide changes that will help your child prioritize healthy eating, more generally.
What Is Healthy Eating?
Even adults don’t always know what healthy eating habits look like. A healthy diet isn’t about placing strict restrictions on yourself or counting calories. It’s about choosing nutrient-dense foods and avoiding refined sugar, processed foods, and empty calories.
To maintain healthy eating habits, you might need to make some changes. If you’re not into healthy eating yourself, it’s time to learn. Instead of eliminating entire food groups, focus on creating well-balanced meal plans that have all the following essential nutrients.
Protein isn’t just responsible for giving your children the energy they need to get up and moving. It also supports cognitive function and can even improve your mood. Try to incorporate a variety of protein sources, from lean meats to plant-based proteins. Legumes, nuts, and soy are all high in protein.
Many people assume that they need to cut fat out of their diets for the sake of weight loss. That isn’t strictly true because not all fat is the same. Healthy fats like omega-3s are vital for maintaining heart and brain health. Industrial-made trans fats are the real problem. Cutting out processed food should eliminate most of them.
Many whole foods are rich in dietary fiber. Eating a high-fiber diet is essential for anyone who wants to lose weight. Try to increase your family’s intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables so that everyone is getting enough fiber.
Calcium is primarily related to bone health, which is very important for growing children. Calcium insufficiency doesn’t just weaken bones. They can also contribute to depression, anxiety, and even insomnia. All of these problems can make it more difficult for your kids to get enough daily activity. Incorporating calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and beans into family meals can help.
While protein gives you long-term energy, carbohydrates provide a quick energy boost. It’s important to focus on complex carbohydrates, not refined carbs. Try to replace white bread, pastries, and starches with whole-wheat alternatives. It’s a great way to lose weight, regulate blood sugar, and even improve mood.
Tips for Making the Switch
It will be very difficult to convince your child to eat healthy if you don’t do the same. That doesn’t mean you have to throw out every sugary treat in your house. It just means you should start making small changes every day that will eventually add up to healthier eating for everyone. Here’s how you can get started:
Prepare Meals at Home
Buying prepared meals or ordering takeout from restaurants makes it very difficult to focus on nutrition. You need to take charge of your family’s eating habits. Cooking meals at home can help you avoid unhealthy foods and incorporate more of the nutrients your children need.
You don’t need to be a master chef to prepare your own meals. If you’re not used to cooking at home, start with easy recipes. Just make sure they’re healthy.
It can be very hard to just give up unhealthy foods. Replacing them with healthier alternatives makes it easier. Try switching out the fried chicken for grilled salmon, for example, or eating fruit instead of sweet treats.
If your child loves sweets, don’t ask him or her to cut them out entirely. Instead, focus on moderation. Encourage everyone to take smaller servings of unhealthy foods and save confectionery treats for special occasions.
Consult a Professional
Losing weight the healthy way is hard. If making basic changes doesn’t help, your child might benefit from diet therapy. Cutting calories is always safer when performed under the supervision of a professional. You can call 416-221-1583 to speak to someone who can help.
Get Help Now
A combination of diet therapy and a targeted exercise plan is often the best plan for helping children lose weight. Parents shouldn’t have to figure it out alone. Instead, you can take your child to a Toronto Weight Loss Clinic that specializes in providing pediatric services.
At clinics, Naturopathic Doctors, professional weight-loss experts, personal trainers and body contouring specialists will be available to create a customized plan and offer advice. Call today to schedule an appointment and get started. Get in touch with us to book a free consultation or call (416)-221-1583 to schedule an appointment and get started.