How to address pandemic weight gain in kids

Tips for shifting your family to healthier habits post COVID

How to address pandemic weight gain in kids

The pandemic disrupted children’s lives in so many ways: from the loss of organized sports and gym class, to suddenly being home and having access to food all day. Not to mention the emotional impact that the pandemic has had on kids over the past year.

All of those changes are taking a toll on children that parents and guardians shouldn’t ignore.

Beaumont pediatric nurse Sarah Rauner says that at the beginning of the pandemic, it was simply about surviving.

“At first, I don’t know that it was on a lot of our radars,” Rauner said. “We were more worried about (kids’) mental health -- you know, let them play their video games, let them have their snacks.”

But as the months went by and nurses and doctors began seeing many children in their offices again, they noticed a trend.

“We have seen an increase in weight and (body mass index) in kids, sometimes even causing increasing blood pressure and other health issues that we’re seeing at a younger age.”

Related: Pandemic shows risk of obesity, and challenge of weight loss

But these changes are reversible, and you can help your children get back on track.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to do a reset,” Rauner said. “Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s not talk about diet and numbers, let’s talk about having a healthy relationship with food. Let’s talking about getting good, quality sleep. And let’s talk about moving. It’s as simple as that.”

To see the best results, Rauner says it is essential to make small, sustainable changes for the whole family.

“We don’t want to talk numbers, we don’t want to look at scales. We kind of want to put those away. We want to talk about how we’re feeling,” Rauner said. “Instead of doing big changes, bring it together as a family, sit together and plan a week’s worth of meals, everybody picks the vegetable that they like and let’s get it on the calendar.”

Some simple changes that families can make include drinking more water instead of soda or juice, and simply walking more. Rauner says instead of talking about dieting or the need to lose weight because someone is “unhealthy,” instead talk about how what you consume can give you more energy and make you stronger.

Related: Is screen time sabotaging your weight loss goals?

Parents and guardians should also be aware of the example they set when it comes to eating, exercise and sleep. Rauner says there is no better time than now to give your family a fresh start when it comes to being healthier.

“We’ve got to figure out some ways to get good out of the pandemic, and I think this, on the tail end of things, will be huge for families,” Rauner said.

If it has been more than a year since your child has visited the pediatrician’s office, be sure to make an appointment for a well-check as soon as possible. Pediatricians can also help you address any health changes in a positive way.

More: 3 healthy habits to make a positive change in your life

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.