Childhood Obesity: Expert Q & A

Childhood obesity has a negative effect on children’s health. Pediatric cardiologist David Thoele, M.D. shares some approaches parents can take to promote good eating habits and exercise as part of our four-part video series exploring the obesity epidemic in America. 

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DR. THOELE: I became a doctor 25 years ago, and at that time there weren't very many children who-- there were always some who were overweight or obese. And it was-- but it was much rarer. There are a lot of health conditions that were pretty much unheard of at that time. Kids with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes didn't exist then. They used to call type 2 diabetes adult onset diabetes, because it didn't occur in children. In my three years of residency 25 years ago, I saw zero kids who had childhood diabetes, and that is quite different now. There are many children in my practice and in every pediatrician's practice who
have type 2 diabetes. The family is the most important determinant of the environment of the child lives in.
In other words, it makes a big difference if all around you everybody's eating junk food. It makes a big difference if the school lunches are no good. But it makes much more of a difference what kind of environment is created in the home, and the parents and the families are what have a big say in that-- how you live life, and what are your values, and what kind of environment it is. And there are some families which have created an extremely healthy environment, which I see a lot of benefits for those children, and some other families where the environment is not so healthy. And there's some effects from those as well. I think the most important thing is how you set the tone for your children. In other words, if you take a shameful thing-- So if you take a thing of you need to eat your vegetables, eat your vegetables, that will never work. And I think the tone that I try to set with my patients and that I suggest parents set with their children is I love you so much. I really want you to do this. This is really, really important, and I want you to be around. And I want you to live a good life and a healthy life. And I try to make the connection, and I think parents can make the connection between living a healthy life, and the quality of their life, and accomplishing whatever their goals are. When I talk to my patients, it's not of much good if I tell them, well, you need these healthy things, but secretly I know that I'm eating junk. I practice what I preach. I eat pretty healthy food, a lot of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods.I live 15 miles away from here, and I ride my bike to work most of the year. And I'll ask my patients, how do you think I got to work today? And they'll say, I guess you drove or something, or you walked.And I say, no, I live 15 miles from here, and I rode my bike. And if I can find time to ride my bike for an hour here and an hour back, then you can find time for that.

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