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Do Obese Parents Equals Obese Kids?

Posted Jul 15 2013 5:42am

Healthy Family

It is hard not to notice obese kids – at least it is for me. I see little girls and boys who are obviously overweight  when I am in Wal-Mart, at church, in Kroger, when we are running errands, and when we visit museums or take family trips. I feel sad for those kids because I know how hard being obese was for me as an adult, and can only imagine how difficult it is for overweight children.

There has been a lot of research on obesity, both for children and adults. I’m always curious about the relationship between a parent’s weight and a child’s weight. I live in the South, so we have higher obesity rates for both children and adults than other parts of the country do.

One research study published in PLOS ONE examined relationships between obesity in children and parents based on a variety of variables. Their results were:

Odds ratio analyses found children were 2.1 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.6, 2.8) times more likely to be obese if only their father was obese, 1.9 (95% CI: 1.5, 2.4) times more likely if only their mother was obese, and 3.2 (95% CI: 2.5, 4.2) times more likely if both parents were obese.

I can believe these statistics based on my personal observations of family units I see around here. It seems that if both parents walking through Wal-Mart (or wherever) are obese, it is pretty likely that the children with them also struggle with their weight.

I know that this is hard to think about if you are a parent who struggles with his or her weight because the last thing we want to do is negatively influence our children. Every parent I know wants his or her child to have a better life in every area from finances to health. I know I do.

My children were not obese when I was, and for that I am thankful. A lot of my poor eating behaviors were done in private and I limited the amount of junk they had. (Although they did eat Pop Tarts for breakfast and often had Oreo cereal for snack. :( )

Positively influencing the children around us is a great incentive to get to a healthy weight. I know that for me, it was one of my primary motivators. I not only wanted to be at a healthy weight to look better, feel better, and have more energy – I also wanted to be at a healthy weight for my children. I wanted to be a good example for them, have enough “get up and go” to keep up with them, and also did not want them to be teased for having a “fat mom.” (And believe me, that does happen.)

I wanted to send them off into adulthood with healthy eating habits rather than the habits I had developed as a young adult. And I inherently knew that if I did not make that shift when they were young, it would be doubly hard to make the shift when they were older. I’ve had friends who have older children who feel resentful when their parents start changing the foods they buy and the foods they cook because the kids have grown accustomed to junky, processed foods.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me sad when I see little children who are obese guzzling down a soda, munching on a huge bag of potato chips, or eating junk food. Often times the parents are also eating the same foods as the kids.

There is no easy solution to the problem of obesity among children or adults. We have come so far in this country in terms of technology and communication, but seemed to have slipped backwards in terms of healthy eating and healthy food preparation methods. Too often children of today are glued to “screens” such as smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, and televisions that they have no desire to go outside nor do their parents encourage them to.

If you are a parent and struggling with your weight, I know how hard and frustrating it can be because I was absolutely there. I just want to encourage you that although we cannot solve the country’s obesity crisis, we certainly can positively influence our children when we take steps to eat and prepare healthy, whole foods. We can also influence our kids by being active ourselves and making a deliberate effort to have our kids participate in activities that get them moving.

What are your thoughts on obese kids and obese parents? Do you see some solutions for changing the dynamic? Diane



Family image courtesy of arztsamui

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