Want proof that vertical sleeve gastrectomy isn’t a selfish choice? A new study reveals three things that predict whether kids will be obese in adulthood—and parents are directly responsible for two. The third factor, as well, can be largely influenced by parents. The good news is that getting healthy now via VSG makes it less likely that your children will fight the same obesity battle that you have. So stop feeling guilty, and start taking action!
What makes kids fat?
A recently released study, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, showed that three things predict whether a child will have weight problems in adolescence: the child’s body mass index (BMI) earlier in life, the mother’s BMI earlier in the child’s life, and the mother’s level of education. Don’t run out and sign up for college classes, though (unless you want to!). My theory? The education component has more to do with learning about healthy eating and exercise than it does with advanced calculus or world history.
So it’s the other two factors that I want to focus on. It makes sense that children of obese parents are more likely to struggle with weight, too, thanks to a combination of both nature (those darned genes) and nurture (modeled eating habits that are less than ideal). But when obese parents take control of their weight when their children are relatively young, it can help not only the parent’s long-term health, but the child’s as well.
Here’s what the study numbers concluded: for each unit of BMI when the child is age six or seven, his or her odds of experiencing weight problems in the mid-teen years go up three-fold. And the odds of losing that weight go down by half. Interestingly, for every unit of BMI the mother carried when her child was six or seven meant a five percent increase in that child developing weight problems in their mid-teens.
What can an overweight parent do?
The short answer: get to a healthy weight. Easier said than done, right? I’ve talked before about the reality that obese people’s bodies often don’t respond well to diet and exercise. That’s why interventions like gastric sleeve gastrectomy are sometimes the best—and only—solution. But a lot of parents believe that the gastric sleeve cost, eating a gastric sleeve diet, and just taking time away from the family to even have VSG are all selfish things. Tara says, “I had the mom guilt of leaving my kids for five days and doing something for myself, but in the long run I am filling my cup to pour to my boys. Today we went for a 1.7-mile jog and then a 1.7-mile bike ride. I have never felt so good.” That’s the spirit, Tara! If the study mentioned above does nothing else, I hope it helps every parent understand that spending time and money on health is the least selfish thing you can do.
For some reason, there haven’t been many long-term studies that look at the effect of an overweight or obese parent’s weight loss on the entire household. One study does come to mind, though. Published in Obesity, an online research journal, the study found that boys actually benefitted most. Specifically, overweight boys who lived with a bariatric surgery patient ended up with a lower-than-expected BMI after their parent’s surgery, while those whose parents hadn’t had surgery (or who didn’t live with a parent who did) had a higher-than-expected BMI.
The bottom line is that, taking charge of your health is really taking charge of your family’s health. Like you’re told to do on airplanes, it’s crucial that you put on your own oxygen mask first so you can then help your children. VSG isn’t just for you; it’s also for them.
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.