Defined in its simplest terms, obesity is having an excess body weight for a particular height. Based on one’s body mass index (BMI), obesity in children is diagnosed when the child ranks in the 95th percentile or above. More abstractly, however, childhood obesity is not just having a higher percent of body fat, but a burden to be carried daily. Whether through health problems associated with the disease, through bullying endured at school, or through lowered self-esteem carried on into adulthood, childhood obesity takes many tolls on its victims. No parent wants to see their son or daughter suffer through obesity, but how can you help?

Encourage Daily Physical Activity
Children should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Whether through biking, playing outdoors, walking, or running around the house, it’s crucial that there is just some form of exercise each day. Playing sports, getting involved with a club, or even playing catch with a parent can get your child moving and even promote other healthy lifestyle choices.

Limit Screen Time
Though children should be allowed to watch TV or use a tablet or computer, it’s critical that screen time is limited. If a child spends all day sitting with a device, that is a a day of healthy activity wasted. It’s not about completely cutting out these habits, but about monitoring and designating certain times to be screen-free. Limit phone usage at the table, encourage a nightly routine of family discussion without devices, set aside times throughout the day for physical activity outside!

Serve Healthy, Home-Cooked Meals
Serving healthy meals that include fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins, and the rest of those good things can help children develop an appetite for healthier alternatives to the sugary, processed foods they will be exposed to in daily life. Also, sitting down at the dinner table to eat a meal gives families a chance to bond; healthier family units lead to healthier decisions in the short and long term.

Set the Right Example
If your child can see you living a healthy and fun life, they will subconsciously mimic your behaviors. Staying active, eating healthy, but finding a balance that doesn’t completely take out all the fun (and delicious!) parts of life will give your children an example of just how fun and easy it can be to be healthy. Always keep in mind that what your children see is what they will do, good and bad.

This September, celebrate Childhood Obesity Awareness Month by improving your own diet and exercise habits, and by encouraging the young people in your life to do the same!