Childhood Weight Gain Issues During COVID-19 Pandemic
Board certified in Pediatrics, Mercy’sDr. Michelle Williams practices at Mercy Family Care Physicians in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Williams provides general pediatric care offering a variety of health services ranging from preventive health care to the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Williams responded to questions from Healthline.com for a story concerning childhood weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic:
What are some of the reasons children may have gained weight during the pandemic?
A lot of the parents and kids express that they had been doing much more mindless snacking just due to boredom and easy availability of food while doing virtual school. It was also much harder or impossible for some to do any group sports or to go outside and play with other kids.
How does this compare to the reasons adults may have gained weight during this time?
It is very similar to the reasons adults gained weight – boredom and less activity overall with limited options and also depression has played a role with weight gain in the children, adolescents, and adults.
How were kids who may have already had blocks to healthy eating prior to the past year impacted (in other words: did their access to healthy resources become better, worse, or generally stay the same?)
I believe the access to healthy resources generally stayed the same for most of my patients.
Were there certain groups of children who may have been more susceptible to pandemic weight gain?
Kids who were already in the risk zone for overweight (around 80th%tile BMI) and kids who were already technically overweight had the biggest weight gains over the pandemic in my practice.
How can obesity in childhood impact a person's long-term health?
There has been a major increase in early onset prediabetes and diabetes due to obesity in childhood as well as other medical issues with obesity (higher risk for joint problems, high blood pressure, etc.) but there are also the self-esteem issues due to bullying and the social stigma around obesity that can cause major impact on a child’s long term development.
For parents who are concerned about their child's weight gain, how can they help?
They should work with their pediatrician on a regular basis to do screening labs and follow up visits to discuss some changes that can be made with diet and exercise for the entire household. Working with a nutritionist or getting into a weight program for children are also great options.
What are some things parents shouldn't do (things they may think are helpful, but can actually be harmful)?
They should try not to single out only the overweight child’s diet and instead make changes for the entire household or be excessively negative and critical.
--Michelle Williams, M.D., FAAP
Dr. Michelle Williams provides general pediatric care offering a variety of health services ranging from preventive health care to the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. She earned her medical degree from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, and completed her residency at the University of Florida, Department of Pediatrics.
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.