Baby fat is baby fat is baby fat?

We may find baby fat cute but studies show that we should be viewing it as a problem. Just as a calorie is not a calorie, baby fat is not baby fat. It is a pre-symptom of child obesity.  These studies report that kids who are overweight before adolescence began piling on the weight before the age of 5, and that obese kids are more likely to be obese as adults.  Obese adolescents enter adulthood with established heart, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar problems. There is clearly a lot at stake so the question is, how can we lower the child obesity rate (17%), and set our kids up to live full healthy lives?

We should look at environments/practices that have the most influence on children’s health. A child’s first and foremost interaction is with their parents, but secondary interactions like school and television seem to be having the most impact on kids these days, especially in dictating food choices/eating habits; as well as general health and nutrition. The next question is how to limit the influence and lessen the damage of these interactions for our children.

TV has a big influence on our children’s food choices (as well as our own). Studies have shown that kids who watch more food ads eat more junk food. Cut TV time as much as possible, and have sit-down family meals. Eat early and sleep early (we all know the importance of sleep, definitely not a luxury!)

It is great to see that parents are having a bigger say in what their children eat outside the home, i.e. school. As a result, schools in many states have banned sugar-sweetened drinks in  the cafeteria and vending machines. The government has also stepped in with improved dietary guidelines for school lunch programs. I vote for further cleanup of unhealthy items, and more gym time in school.

New moms, one very important preventative measure to childhood obesity is breastfeeding. It helps both mother and child: children who breastfeed are less likely to be obese adults and are also generally healthier; and breastfeeding helps new mothers lose weight. An important win-win 🙂 “Bottle-feeding, researchers have observed, for example, leads to greater weight gain than breast-feeding, even if breast milk is what’s in the bottle.”

These are all important steps but we still need to do more. We need to familiarize our children with healthy habits at home and give them a fighting chance when they become exposed to other environments/influences.

I know child obesity is a depressing topic since so much is at stake. But there is a lot we can do to minimize the issue. Children can lose weight and be in top shape by eating right and being active. So let’s be active and make this summer a healthy one!

Check out our spring newsletter for more tips to implement this summer 🙂

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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