Recent findings among American children suggest that there has been an alarming spike in childhood obesity rates since the COVID-19 lockdowns began. The University of Michigan discovered that kids gained a shocking amount of excess weight during this time. Kids aged 5- 11 were the worst affected, with 45.7% (this is not a typo!) of the children studied being classified as overweight or obese. Before the pandemic, the number was 36%.
Among kids between the ages of 12- 15, there was a 13% increase since before the pandemic. Order children between 16 and 18 so a rise of 8.3%. The findings have been published here in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
There is no clear single factor that contributed to this alarming statistic, but the fact that many schools, beaches, public parks, swimming pools, and other public facilities were closed in reaction to COVID-19, meant that many children had fewer opportunities to exercise.
Added to this, the cancellation of most sporting events and school sports teams and clubs further contributed to these shocking rates.
No doubt, we all love our children dearly, regardless of their weight. However, there are several reasons why parents should be concerned if their child has gained a lot of extra pounds, because it increases the chance that your child will develop health problems, may struggle with maintaining a healthy self-image (peers can be ruthless with teasing), and other issues later in life.
Enough about the problem, what is the solution to the childhood obesity crisis? The primary thing that parents and families can do to help prevent childhood obesity is to provide guidance when it comes to choosing healthy foods, portion control, and encouraging physical activity every day. Whether that means watching and participating with your child to a YouTube workout video or simply going for a walk together outside, anything parents and caregivers can do to encourage healthy bodies is a step in the right direction. It may all feel like being a ‘good parent’ is becoming more difficult by the day, but a little planning can go a long way when it comes to raising healthier kids. Meals, too, are tricky, which is why we’ve written pieces to help parents like healthy lunches your kids will love.
Of course, psychologically, it is detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health to give them a poor self-image due to harsh parental criticism. Lockdowns and social isolation have done a number on many people’s social lives. Distancing oneself from others during critical childhood years, when identities are formed and friendships are built, has been an enormous sacrifice for many kids.
We need to treat children gently during what must be a confusing time for them.
While there are indications that eating disorders may have a genetic component (women with an anorexic mother or sister are 12x more likely to become anorexic and 4x more likely to become bulimic, parents who are overly critical of their child’s weight can inadvertently push their child in the direction of unhealthy eating patterns. What a child needs who is struggling with their weight is to be reassured, encouraged, and supported as they work toward a healthier lifestyle and weight.
If you’re interested to read more about the childhood obesity spike amid cover 19 lockdowns, you can find it here at the National Review.
Looking for some guidance for a child with an eating disorder? There are a number of free articles here.