After a referral to the pediatric lipid clinic at Dayton Children’s, Ghiman and his family discovered he had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26.5. Compared to children his same age, this BMI was above the 99th percentile, indicating he was already obese.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity is particularly unsettling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to lifelong health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Although genetics or hormones can play a role, most of the time childhood obesity is caused by eating too much and exercising too little.
“After talking with the doctors and nurses at Dayton Children’s, I realized that I was overfeeding Ghiman,” says Sandy Parker of Clayton, Ghiman’s mother. “He didn’t like school lunch, so I thought by giving him a big breakfast every morning, he would have enough energy to make it through the day.”
However, a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, grits and sausage nearly every morning was taking a toll on Ghiman’s health. In addition, celebrating with big meals on the weekends added to his intense weight gain.
“We were feeding Ghiman out of love,” says Sandy, “but after we realized how unhealthy he was, I had to correct what I had done. So we took him to the lipid clinic and started their program, also out of love.”
For many parents, starting the conversation about healthy eating and activity can be a challenge. Together with the pediatric specialists at Dayton Children’s, Sandy told Ghiman why it wasn’t healthy to gain so much weight so quickly. They talked about the importance of changing habits to avoid future medical problems such as diabetes or high cholesterol.
“We even had a friend share with Ghiman about a little girl she knew who had to get her blood tested every day for diabetes,” says Betty Parker, Ghiman’s grandmother. “By sharing this example, Ghiman really understood why it was important for him to change his habits.”
Using tips from the pediatric lipid clinic at Dayton Children’s, Ghiman and his family took some small steps that have yielded huge results for their health.
“After I retired, I didn’t think about what I ate or how I prepared my meals,” says Betty, “Now that Ghiman is on the program, I am more conscious about the way I cook, foods to avoid, and my activity level.”
As a family, they reduced the amount of soda they drank and now choose sugar-free beverages, water or milk. They have also stopped eating large meals and choose healthier portions. They also save sweets for only important occasions like birthdays and holidays.
“I’ve also learned it’s important not to skip meals,” says Ghiman. “You need to eat food for energy in order to burn calories.”
And now 9-year-old Ghiman works hard to burn calories. He focuses on getting at least one hour of activity each day. His favorite activities include swimming and playing tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball.
“We also learned it wasn’t necessarily about losing weight – it was more important for Ghiman to stabilize his weight,” says Sandy.
“Maintaining a stable weight, particularly for children in Ghiman’s age group, is usually a better approach than encouraging weight loss,” says James Ebert, MD, lead physician in Dayton Children’s lipid clinic. “As children become taller, they can grow into their weight and improve their BMI. It is important for children to get adequate nutrition in order to achieve height growth and brain development.”
In addition, focusing on the scale rather than healthy habits can be frustrating. Sandy and Betty helped Ghiman focus on eating better and staying active instead of the using weight loss to gauge success.
And Ghiman has had a lot of success. He maintained his weight and even lowered his body mass enough to reduce the number of tests he needs to take when he visits the pediatric lipid clinic.
“I feel proud of what I’ve done,” says Ghiman. “Now I’m healthy enough and have the energy to do things that other kids are doing.”
For many children who may be overweight, health issues are not the only concern. Many times children are made fun of and even bullied because of their weight.
“Ghiman also had a hard time at school because kids said he was too big for certain activities,” says Betty, “Now he has slimmed down and kids have become more accepting.”
Luckily, Sandy and Betty made positive changes for Ghiman early enough that he does not have any signs of diabetes or other diseases associated with childhood obesity.
“I’ve learned that it’s important to help children develop healthy habits early in life because these habits are something they will take with them as they develop and grow!” says Sandy.
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