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What To Do About Your Kid’s Pandemic Weight Gain

October 22, 2021 • Our Blog • General Health
What To Do About Your Kid’s Pandemic Weight Gain
The pandemic caused a lot of people to gain unwanted weight, including many children. Understanding what caused that weight gain can help parents combat it.  Along with remote work and increased hand-washing, unwanted weight gain is another byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 percent of adults gained unwanted weight during the pandemic. Now, new research shows that this isn’t a problem exclusive to adults, with 30 percent of parents reporting that their children have gained unwanted weight as well.  Weight gain in children could see concerning implications down the line. As we dive into this below, we’ll also share what parents can do to combat it and help their children improve eating habits. 

Why Is Childhood Obesity on the Rise with the Pandemic?

The pandemic was a stressful time for everyone, both adults and children. It disrupted the ways we have always lived our lives. This included access to food. Under normal circumstances, kids don’t have constant access to food and snacks at school. With remote learning, children were able to access food whenever they wanted it — and the food they chose wasn’t always necessarily healthy.  Unsurprisingly, the pandemic’s impact on healthy eating was greatest for children who already struggled with it in the first place. It impacted children who were responsible for feeding themselves throughout the day either because their parents were working all day, even if it was from home. Under those circumstances, it’s not surprising that children often found themselves making less healthy eating choices.  Additionally, as with adults, the pandemic reduced opportunities for movement and physical fitness for children. Not only were they forced to stay indoors for long periods, kids no longer had access to the PE classes that keep them active in school. While some schools attempted to offer virtual physical classes, these were not the same and the result was that many children became more sedentary than ever — a factor that further contributed to weight gain.

The Conditions that Come with Obesity

Although the weight gain that children experienced during the pandemic is understandable, that doesn’t mean it is free of repercussions. Sadly, pediatric obesity is associated with a number of significant health conditions that can have a major impact on the lifelong health of a child.  In addition to contributing to the development of a variety of conditions including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, pulmonary disease, asthma, sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, and depression, it’s also associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks. These include: 
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Systemic low-grade inflammation
  • Increased artery wall thickness

How Parents Can Combat Their Kids’ Pandemic Weight Gain

Clearly, there are many concerns tied to children’s weight gain, so the natural question is: what can parents do?  The best thing parents can do is to create new, healthy eating habits for their children and for the family as a whole. Given that children are likely to learn from and mimic their parents’ eating habits, the healthier behavior you can model, the better. If the whole family makes a change together, it can reduce the stigma and help your child feel better about their new healthier eating habits. Parents should focus on having planned meals and snacks instead of letting kids graze throughout the day. If possible, creating family meals can add even more structure and lead to better eating habits. Another easy fix is to eliminate sugary beverages and only allow water between meals to reduce the intake of empty calories. 

Taking the Next Step for Health

If you’re worried about your child’s pandemic weight gain — or their weight in general — the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, who can help you understand what your child’s weight means and give you guidance on the best steps to take to create a healthier lifestyle. At Kids’ Health, a leading pediatric clinic in Beverly, Massachusetts, our specialists are here to help you navigate your child’s health. Contact us today to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment. ...