Q&A Topic: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity
Mitchell S. Roslin, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Q. What are the dangers of childhood obesity?
A. Type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and cardiovascular problems are far more likely in adulthood with childhood obesity. These are chronic health problems that begin in adolescence and can dramatically lower quality of life and decrease life expectancy. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, because of increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation in America that has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. But the real reason that most adolescents need treatment, is that severe obesity places an anchor on many aspects of their life and can limit opportunities for advancement.
Q. What are the psychological effects of childhood obesity?
A. Overweight children who are teased and humiliated about their weight often feel isolated and depressed. Kids can be cruel. Children as young as five years old experience social and psychological problems and poor self-esteem related to weight. The effects of bullying – beginning at such a young age – can be devastating for obese children.
Q. Is it baby fat or obesity?
A. Childhood obesity is very difficult for parents to address. Parents want to believe that it is stubborn baby fat and, at the right moment, weight loss will occur. The reality is that childhood obesity may lead to adult obesity and numerous long term effects. Balancing love and support and trying to change eating habits often leads to complex family dynamics. Huge portions, diets high in sugar and processed foods, and lack of exercise have contributed to an epidemic of childhood obesity, making it one of the most dangerous health challenges of the 21st century. It is essential for all family members to educate themselves about healthy eating and attempt to make their homes full of better choices for all their children, not just those with weight problems.
Q. How can I help my child maintain a healthy weight?
A. Your role as a parent is critical. While an appropriate strategy is to allow children to grow and keep weight constant, making dietary changes is essential for this to occur. But, telling your six-year-old daughter she can’t enjoy food is not the answer. Make household changes. Become an active participant in helping your children become healthy. Wellness is contagious. If your entire family eats better and makes better choices the chances of your child’s success are far greater.
Q. Is my child a candidate for surgical weight loss?
A. If your child is fully grown, has a BMI over 40 and has been unable to maintain a healthy weight despite intensive diet and exercise regimens, he or she may be a candidate for weight loss surgery. Teens who come to me for help are some of my most motivated patients. They’re excited about what the future holds. One of my patients who underwent bariatric surgery at the age of fourteen lost 180 pounds and is very, very happy to feel healthy, mentally and physically. Northern Westchester Hospital’s (NWH) Bariatric Surgery Program is one of only 70 in the country certified to operate on adolescents.
The Bariatric Surgery Program at NWH was recently re-accredited as a Comprehensive Center with Adolescent Accreditation from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. This certification further affirms the outstanding quality of our Bariatric Surgery Program, where standards far exceed national benchmarks.
Learn More about Dr. Roslin
Director, Bariatric Surgery
Northern Westchester Hospital
Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.