Dr. Ambalavanan Encourages that Childhood Obesity Does Not Have to Mean Life as an Obese Adult

Southwest Ohio Physician Provides Recommendations for Parents on Helping Children Lose Weight

DAYTON, Ohio (Sept. 14, 2012) -- Many children in today’s world struggle with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.  In fact, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The good news is that being an obese child doesn’t have to lead to life as an obese adult, says Geetha Ambalavanan, MD of Fairborn Medical Center, a Premier HealthNet practice.

“I think it is possible to reverse childhood obesity,” said Dr. Ambalavanan. “It’s more about changing lifestyle habits than about losing weight, and it’s something that a family must overcome as a unit, rather than placing so much responsibility on a child.”

Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated using a child’s height and weight. Numbers for a child with a healthy weight fall between the fifth and 85th percentile.  Children who have a BMI between the 85th and 95th percentile are considered overweight and children above the 95th percentile are considered obese.  Dr. Ambalavanan says that parents and physicians should take action when a child’s BMI rises to a level between the 85th and 95th percentile. When this happens, parents and children also need to be taught strategies for safe and healthy weight loss.

One of the first tips she gives parents is to follow the 5-2-1 Almost None rule. The rule, which lives up to its name, calls for at least five servings of vegetables every day, limiting television and computer time to less than two hours a day, getting at least one hour of exercise per day and drinking zero sugary beverages like soda pop and certain juices.  She also suggests that families abide by portion control rules, eat slowly, sit together as a family at dinner time and turn off the television during meals.

“Because children are still growing, it’s important as a physician to monitor their BMI from year-to-year.  As they grow taller, their weight to height ratio will change,” says Dr. Ambalavanan.  “I don’t suggest putting a child on a diet, like an adult might. Instead, I advise eating healthier, nutrient rich foods, eating smaller meals and getting plenty of exercise in order to reverse the signs of obesity.”

While many overweight children become overweight or obese adults, this isn’t always the outcome. With the right amount of encouragement to follow a healthy diet, support system and exercise, it is possible for children to go from being overweight or obese to maintaining a healthy weight.

Working with a primary care physician or pediatrician to help an overweight or obese child lose weight will ensure that the child is losing weight at a safe pace.  A primary care physician or pediatrician is also able to provide tools for the family on healthy eating and exercise, such as putting a family in touch with a nutritionist who can provide expertise for meal planning.

In order to give her patients resources they can use at home, Dr. Ambalavanan suggests families visit ChooseMyPlate.gov  Off Site Icon, LetsMove.gov  Off Site Icon, MyPyramid.com Off Site Icon and GetUpMc.org  Off Site Icon.

To learn more about a child’s BMI or to initiate a discussion with a Premier HealthNet primary care physician or pediatrician about helping an overweight or obese child safely lose weight, visit www.PremierHealthNet.com/doctors.

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