My child seems to eat all the time. Is that normal?
It depends. Children and teens may go through cycles. For example, they may eat more and gain some extra weight right before a growth spurt in height. This type of weight gain usually passes quickly as the child continues to grow.
Emotional eating is eating for comfort, out of boredom, or in response to your emotions rather than eating for nutrition or because you are hungry. Emotional eating can lead to overeating because it isn’t usually about a need for nutrients or calories. Your child’s body doesn’t need the food. Over time, taking in extra calories may cause your child to gain weight and become overweight or obese. Overeating can also cause your child to feel guilty or embarrassed.
If you notice signs of emotional eating in your child, talk to him or her about your concerns. Help your child develop a more healthy response to his or her problems, such as focusing on solutions.
Eating disorders usuallydevelop during the teenage years or in early adulthood. Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder in which a person regularly (more than 3 times a week) consumes large amounts of food in a short timeframe. People who have binge eating disorder are often embarrassed by the amount of food they eat. They may hide food for binges. People who have this disorder often try to diet without success or promise to stop eating so much. They feel that they can’t control the urge to keep eating large amounts of food. As a result, they tend to become overweight or obese.
If you are concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, watchhis or her behavior and talk to your family doctor. He or she can evaluate your child and recommend the best way to help.
Overeating can lead to weight gain. Children who are overweight or obese are at risk for serious health problems as they get older, including the following:
Binge eating disorder can also cause stomach problems and is associated with symptoms of depression.
By teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits, you are giving your child important tools for a lifetime of healthy living. Your guidance is important even for teens who may prepare their own snacks and meals and plan their own activities.
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Physical activity has many benefits, including the following:
Children 2 years of age and older need at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. This doesn’t mean your child has to do a physical activity for a full hour. He or she just needs to be active throughout the day, even if it is in shorter periods of activity.
Limit your child’s screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Screen time includes playing video or computer games, surfing the Internet, texting, and watching TV or DVDs. Set a good example by limiting your own screen time, too.
Help your child to find physical activities he or she enjoys. For example, your child might enjoy participating in team sports, dancing, playing outdoors, or doing volunteer work.
Make physical activity part of your whole family’s lifestyle. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or do chores together. Plan active family outings.
Do not put your child on a weight-loss diet without talking to your doctor first. Children need a certain amount of calories and nutrients to grow, learn, and develop.
A systems-oriented multilevel framework for addressing obesity in the 21st century by Huang TT, Drewnowski A, Kumanyika SK, Glass TA (Prev Chronic Dis 2009;6(3):A82 , http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2009/jul/09_0013.htm)
American Heart Association. Is obesity an issue in your house?. Accessed January 14, 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Parents—Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight. Accessed January 14, 2011
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff