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How do I Prevent Childhood Obesity?

Preventing childhood obesity requires maintaining a healthy living environment for the child through diet, exercise, and example. A child must be fed a healthy diet that provides appropriate nutrients and keeps calories at a reasonable level. Exercise can be integrated into the day through play, or it can be regulated with sports or other physical activities. Leading by example is often the hardest part when trying to prevent childhood obesity because it can be difficult for adults to change habits even if those habits are known to be unhealthy. Keeping these simple guidelines in mind can help prevent childhood obesity in almost all cases.

The first problem that must be addressed in order to prevent childhood obesity is diet. What constitutes a healthy diet depends on the child's body, his or her culture, and even the resources available to caretakers. In general, though, a child's diet must be low in fats and sugars while remaining high in nutrients in order to be considered healthy. Also, food must be consumed in reasonable portions and should never be offered as a reward. There is no reason to entirely cut out enjoyable snacks, but excessive unhealthy food is a prevalent cause of obesity.

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Exercise must be incorporated into the child's schedule in order to prevent childhood obesity. Exercise for a child is fairly easy to accomplish because there are many enjoyable activities for children that involve running and active playing. Simply limiting time spent on video games, computers, and television may increase the amount of time a child exercises, as exercise is a normal form of play. Signing a child up for a sport or children's exercise class may be necessary if the child is not motivated to be active independently.

One of the most important steps when attempting to provide a healthy living environment for a child is making sure to set a good example. If one does not allow a child to eat excessive amounts of sugar or fat, one should not eat those things in front of the child. Rather, one should make a point of enjoying the same foods one prescribes for the child. Likewise, one should engage in exercise activities with the child when possible, which may be as simple as playing outside. When thinking about how hard it is to change one's habits as an adult, it may be encouraging to consider that a child who learns these habits at a young age will never have to go through the pain of changing them as an adult.

Sometimes one cannot prevent childhood obesity, but this is very rare. A child with a medical condition might, for instance, experience extreme weight gain due to medication, fatigue, or even as a symptom of a disease. Some people argue that some children are genetically predisposed to obesity as well, but a healthy child is never obese, although he or she may be overweight or even just big boned. It would be illogical to consider an obese child to be healthy. Obesity is a very specific condition, and a healthy child who is eating healthy meals and exercising in a fashion appropriate to his or her body will never be obese because obesity is an indicator of poor health.

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