Should We Find Out Obesity Likelihood at Birth?

As Fall arrived, I noticed a lot more children taking the train in the morning, on their way to school. I could not help but notice that this year, as in years past, the number of heavier set children seems to be on the rise — and sadly it is not just my observation but a recorded trend of an increase in the number of children and teenagers that are considered obese. When I was a child it was considerably more unusual than it is today and I fear that trends are moving toward more overweight and obese children, not fewer.

The best way to fight this trend is to start children off early with the fundamentals of good diet and keeping physically fit. There was one day on a train when my wife Elizabeth pointed out a mother pouring Coca-Cola into a baby bottle and giving it to her child — I thought, she may as well be stabbing the child! Sadly, for many children it is considerably harder to fight weight gain than others for seemingly no good reason. There most often is a reason that suddenly, a lot more children are gaining weight — there is no such thing as coincidence — and sadly, much of the reasons have more to do with behavior and environment than anything else.

On the basis of five risk factors — birth weight, body mass index of the parents, the number of people in the newborn’s household, the mother’s professional and smoking status during pregnancy — it can be determined which children are at a higher risk for obesity than not. What can be done with this information? I would say that it behooves every parent to use the obesity risk calculator to see where they lay. For example, I plugged in our figures and it came up with a 12.2% likelihood that our son Chaim Yosef would become obese as a child.

Mind you, this does not mean that we do not carefully guard at this point what he eats at every meal and for his snacks! As parents who give our child a vegetarian diet (much to the disappointment of my mother and stepfather), we are all about figuring out how much protein and complex carbohydrates he is getting versus fat (the healthiest kind I know — avocados and olive oil!) and regular checkups on the scale to make sure he is up to weight. Elizabeth told me that in her baby group on Facebook, Chaim is actually doing “better” as it were than some babies in the group that went to full term!

Be mindful of your children and consider this excellent tool. The later in life we begin fighting off excess weight, the more difficult the battle.