Childhood Obesity Epidemic: What Parents Need to Know

Lynchburg, VA - The New England Journal of Medicine says the current generation of children may not outlive their parents' generation. The reason? Childhood obesity.

Doctors are now turning the attention on parents since this epidemic is growing by the day. According to Pediatric and Congenital Cardiologist Dr. Mark Townsend, nationally, about 18% of children are obese. He says regionally, we are above the national average.

This alarming and dramatic change has happened over the past 15 years. So the question is what can parents do to decrease their child's chances of being overweight? The key is how to talk to them in a way that is effective.

"It is a growing problem. It is a big problem," said Townsend. "We are seeing the epidemic of obesity every day. We see kids every day with high blood pressure, with high cholesterol, with all the health consequences related to obesity. We see infants that have weight problems."

These are alarming statistics about childhood obesity in America. But the good news is it can easily be corrected.

Hannah Curl, 2, is full of energy. She just keeps going and going. As hard as this may be for some to believe, she is not hyped up on sugar.

"We try to do no sugar at all. No juice, unless I make it, unless it's juiced fresh," said her mother Sarah Curl.

Curl is passionate about health. Not only is she the co-owner of Bikram Yoga Studio in Lynchburg, she is setting a good example for her kids.

To fight obesity, she get kids in the kitchen.

"Hannah has a little stool in the kitchen and we include her in all of our meals. We try to make three meals a day here," said Curl. "She cracks eggs, she stirs, I have a little knife, she gets to chop things up."

Townsend says it is all about getting kids involved.

"You've got to practice what you preach," said Townsend.

He says you can do this in five simple steps.

1) Make healthy choices as a family.

"If the child is going to be successful at weight loss, then the family really has to be successful," said Townsend.

2) Cut back on sugar.

"No juice. no sweet tea. no diet beverages that taste sweet either," he said.

3) Learn to talk to your kids about nutrition in a way that will not lower self-esteem.

"I don't sit in front of a kid and say, 'You're fat.' I don't say, 'You're obese.' I say, 'You have an unhealthy weight," said Townsend.

4) Breastfeed newborns.

"Formula fed babies are more likely to have an obesity problem later on in life," Townsend said.

5) Make it fun.

He says the 5-2-1-0 plan works well.

"Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Two hours or less of screen time," said Dr. Townsend.

One hour of outdoor play and zero sugary drinks.

Curl says social media can also be a big help. She loves the Facebook page "100 Days of Real Food." On it, you can find posts on how to pack your kids' lunch with whole foods that they will eat.

You can also get more resources from the CDC's website.

Recommended Books:

"Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon

"Super Natural Cooking" by Heidi Swanson

"Super Natural Every Day:Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen" by Heidi Swanson