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Pediatrician explains do's and don'ts of discussing childhood obesity

Dr. Bethany Crawford said childhood obesity was one of her main concerns for many young patients. (KRCG)

The Centers for Disease Control said childhood obesity was on the rise. It was also major predictor for adult obesity.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health pediatrician Dr. Bethany Crawford about how parents can broach this tough subject and encourage their children to form healthy habits for life.

Crawford said childhood obesity was one of her main concerns for many young patients. "About 20 percent of children are obese and by the time they get to teenage years, that number doubles to about 40 percent, which is a really alarming number," she said.

She said as the rates of childhood obesity were rising, doctors were starting to see diseases previously only seen in adults. "Things like Type II Diabetes, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure are becoming a concern," she said. "But if we can get patients' obesity under control sooner rather than later, some of those things will resolve on their own."

Dr. Crawford said childhood obesity also comes with social costs. "Children who are obese have higher rates of depression. And as you can imagine, they're also victims of bullying and teasing at school," she said.

She said when she talks with families about how to handle childhood obesity, she stresses the importance of positive language and small, do-able changes. "I try to avoid words like diet, because diet has such a negative connotation - it's all about limits. The more important word to use is nutrition - we want our children to have good nutrition," she said.

Dr. Crawford said while it's crucial parents address the necessity of healthy habits, harsh or negative language can do more to harm than help. "One word to never ever use with a child is fat. It's a very hurtful word," she said. "And in the end, it doesn't really mean anything in the context of their health."

Instead, Dr. Crawford suggested honing-in on small, easy-to-implement changes. She said she's seen multiple children get back on track to a healthier weight just by cutting out soda and juice.

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