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Child Fitness

7 Tips for Trimmer Tots

By Jude Buglewicz
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

Even newborns are fatter these days. The number of overweight babies jumped 74 percent over a 22-year period, according to a recent study by Harvard Medical School researchers. And since there's a strong correlation between being overweight early in life and being obese later, this is not good news. Not for expectant mothers, new moms and dads, or the children coming into this world. Not unless you know what to do to increase a child's chances of growing up healthy. Read on to find out.

Why baby is fat

First of all, it's not clear what being "overweight" means for very young children, so there's some controversy about how these claims are determined. Babies grow in accelerated spurts, so they can look chubby or not, depending on their height. The researchers in the study cited above examined kids under the age of 6 over a period of 22 years, and, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reference, considered that children at or above the 95th percentile on growth charts nationally for their age and gender (based on body mass index, or weight-to-height ratios) were overweight. They believe babies are overweight mainly because of:

  • Overweight moms. More and more women are overweight when they become pregnant, or gain excessive weight during pregnancy. Studies show that babies of obese mothers consume more calories than babies of healthy-weight moms.

  • Overfeeding. This is especially detrimental in the first two years of a child's life. More than 20 studies from around the world confirm that if babies gain too much weight rapidly during this period, they have a greater risk of being obese later in life.

Health risks/costs of chubbier kids

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 20 years, resulting in increased health risks for children as well as economic costs for their families and for the children themselves as they move into adulthood:

  • More expensive. Obese children cost the health system three times more than average normal-weight insured children.

  • More hospital stays. Obese children are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized than healthy-weight children.

  • More diseases/ailments. Obesity-related diseases and conditions include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, sleep apnea, hypertension, osteoporosis, increased LDL ("bad") cholesterol, liver and gallbladder diseases, and some cancers. They account for up to 7.8 percent of all health care expenditures.

  • More money spent on health care in adulthood. If a child is obese at four years old, he or she is 20 percent more likely to be an obese adult; the probability of an obese adolescent developing into an obese adult is between 40 and 80 percent. Obese adults spend 77 percent more than healthy-weight people on medications and 36 percent more on inpatient and outpatient care.

  • Lower income. Researchers at Stanford University investigating health care insurance costs found that obese women earn less than healthier women: "We find that a substantial part of the lower wages among obese women attributed to labor market discrimination can be explained by the higher health insurance premiums required to cover them."

7 tips for healthy tots

If you as a parent are overweight, then it is imperative that you learn and adopt healthy eating habits so you can teach them to your children. No parent wants to jeopardize their child's future health and well-being. Here are some things you can do to ensure your baby or child maintains a healthy weight:

  1. Breastfeed your baby. Numerous studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity, compared with formula feeding. Breastfeeding for more than six months has a beneficial long-term effect on the child's health. (It's unusual for breastfed babies to overfeed.)

  2. Feed children slowly. Don't train them to gulp down food quickly. Remember, you're establishing lifelong patterns.

  3. Avoid overfeeding. Train your baby to leave a little formula in the bottle and your kids a little food on the plate, and to stop eating before they're full.

  4. Small portions, often. This goes for babies and children. Babies are tiny; their stomachs are tiny (about the size of their tiny fist), so rather than trying to give your baby a whole bottle, make the feedings shorter and more frequent. With older kids, give smaller portions at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and healthy, low-calorie (sugarless) snacks between meals. And NO soda pop! (See why it's the "worst food on the planet.")

  5. Take the sippy cup away. If you allow your toddler to hold on to a cup or bottle all day long, they'll learn to associate food with comfort. (Food should be associated with hunger and that's it!)

  6. Don't use food as a reward. Instead, give your child affection and praise when they've been good.

  7. Get kids moving. Get down on the floor and play with your baby. Crawl around, move, and get those little muscles working. Be sure tots and older kids get lots of exercise, too (instead of plopping down in front of the TV for hours).

Sources
Bhattacharya, Jay, and Bundorf, M. Kate. "The Incidence of the Healthcare Costs of Obesity." Stanford University, April 2005, Abstract.
Owen, Christopher G., Ph.D., et al. "Effect of Infant Feeding on the Risk of Obesity Across the Life Course: A Quantitative Review of Published Evidence." Pediatrics. (2005), 115 (5): 1367-1377.
Peterson, K. E, et al. "Trends in overweight from 1980 through 2001 among preschool-aged children enrolled in a health maintenance organization." Obesity. (2006), 14 (7):1107-12.

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