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Monitoring and Lowering Your Child's Stress for a Healthier Life

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two young girls walking to school

The childhood obesity rate has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy campaigns across the country are targeting fitness and nutrition for children. But are these children overweight only because of video games and junk food?

The Cooper Institute weighs in on other factors such as emotions, stress and parental guidance that have a big effect on childhood obesity.

Stress and School
Stress management is an important factor in leading a healthy lifestyle and is one of the Eight Steps to Get Cooperized developed by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH. As adults, we are more often likely to become stressed then a child. However, even children, especially if they are overweight, tend to experience stress.

School, popularity and friendships can all become sources of stress for children. Many children who are overweight tend to eat lightly or less in front of others. When they get home and in a comfortable zone, overeating can occur. These children find joy alone in isolated activities or online. By themselves, they are able to eat without anxiety or stress.

Family Matters
Weight control is a family issue. Parents can only help their children when they are ready and able to help themselves.

There are many ways to help your children stay healthy and lessen their stress. Start by removing junk food from the pantry and refrigerator. By removing the junk food at home or only offering healthy snacks, children are forced to cut back their sweet cravings and reach for something more wholesome. Also try cutting down television or video game time and instead take walks around the neighborhood or play outdoor games. These activities promote practice in social situations and will inevitably help children at school.

Watch Fast Food
Fast food restaurants are a big catalyst for overweight children. French fries and hamburgers are a pretty easy taste to acquire as a child. Once the child likes the taste, they begin asking mom and dad for those meals.

There are many reasons a parent might choose a fast food meal over a home-cooked healthy meal. Sometimes parents don’t know how to prepare food therefore they resort to easy options. Also, fast food is a time saver. Many parents today are working long hours while juggling their kids’ activities. Grabbing fast food is a short-term stress reliever for parents, but can become a long-term stress starter for kids and their weight.

School, friends and even family can all be stressors for kids when it comes to their weight. Parents have to be on board for healthy eating and activity before a child can make the changes.

Learn more about The Cooper Institute and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services youth programs.