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  • Lisa Farver

Early Lifestyle Changes May Be Key to Combat Childhood Obesity

The issue of childhood obesity can be a delicate subject for parents, who often juggle concerns for their child’s health while helping that child navigate their complex emotions linked to their own body image.

These parents are often bombarded with suggestions from well-meaning friends and relatives, in addition to recommendations they find in books and online, some of which can be contradictory .

In the midst of this, newly released guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are underscoring this urgency of tackling childhood obesity and advise “aggressive” early lifestyle changes to avoid medication and surgery as children age into adolescence, The New York Times reports on its podcast, “The Daily.”

What AAP Recommends for Childhood Obesity

Early intervention seems key to combating childhood obesity, per AAP. The AAP guidelines advise that Intensive health behavior and lifestyle changes are “the most effective known behavioral treatment for child obesity”

This can include several sessions of family therapy for as long as a year, in addition to support with nutritional, behavioral and physical habits.

As children become adolescents, the new AAP guidelines suggest medication and surgery if these patients are still dealing with severe childhood obesity.

“The medical costs of obesity on children, families and our society as a whole are well-documented and require urgent action,” Dr. Sarah Hampl, one of the guidelines' authors, said in a news release from AAP.

Hempl added, “This is a complex issue, but there are multiple ways we can take steps to intervene now and help children and teens build the foundation for a long, healthy life.”

Physical, Emotional Toll of Childhood Obesity

With nearly 15 million children in the U.S. considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the issue is becoming increasingly dire. Childhood obesity can bring myriad physical complications, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Hypertension

  • Cardiovascular problems

  • Joint issues

It can also lead to emotional struggles for children, including:

  • Body dysmorphia disorder

  • Eating disorders

  • Bullying

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Undoing Effects of Emotional Eating in Adulthood

Studies have found that there is a link between childhood obesity and “emotional eating,” or using food to cope with emotions.

Emotional eating can be insidious and can affect anyone, even into adulthood, Therapist Glenn Sevier, LCSW explained. Sevier, a former marathon runner and lifelong athlete, said he struggled with emotional eating when he got into middle age.

“Most of my [weight gain] stemmed from poor eating habits, emotional eating and the lack of

nutritional education,” Sevier said.

He said his wakeup call came when he was hypertensive and on the verge of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of death in the United States.

Sevier, who founded Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy in 2003, ultimately made his own aggressive lifestyle changes, engaging in more physical activity and making more healthful diet choices.

Sevier explained “Since I decided to make the necessary changes in middle age, I’ve lost 35 pounds and gone down three sizes. Because of the necessary steps I’ve taken, I’m no longer prescribed high blood pressure medication and my A1C has been in the normal range at 5.3.”

To step into the world of Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), make an appointment with Glenn.

Click the link to read healthline's tips on preventing childhood and adult obesity.

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