Childhood Obesity: Expert Q & A

As part of our four-part video series exploring the obesity epidemic in America, pediatric cardiologist David Thoele, M.D., talks about how childhood obesity affects children’s health and some approaches parents can take to promote good eating habits and exercise.

Show Transcript

DR. THOELE: I became a doctor 25 years ago, and at that time there weren't very many children who-- there were always some who were overweight or obese. And it was-- but it was much rarer. There are a lot of health conditions that were pretty much unheard of at that time. Kids with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes didn't exist then. They used to call type 2 diabetes adult onset diabetes, because it didn't occur in children. In my three years of residency 25 years ago, I saw zero kids who had childhood diabetes, and that is quite different now. There are many children in my practice and in every pediatrician's practice who
have type 2 diabetes. The family is the most important determinant of the environment of the child lives in. In other words, it makes a big difference if all around you everybody's eating junk food. It makes a big difference if the school lunches are no good. But it makes much more of a difference what kind of environment is created in the home, and the parents and the families are what have a big say in that-- how you live life, and what are your values, and what kind of environment it is. And there are some families which have created an extremely healthy environment, which I see a lot of benefits for those children, and some other families where the environment is not so healthy. And there's some effects from those as well. I think the most important thing is how you set the tone for your children. In other words, if you take a shameful thing-- So if you take a thing of you need to eat your vegetables, eat your vegetables, that will never work. And I think the tone that I try to set with my patients and that I suggest parents set with their children is I love you so much. I really want you to do this. This is really, really important, and I want you to be around. And I want you to live a good life and a healthy life. And I try to make the connection, and I think parents can make the connection between living a healthy life, and the quality of their life, and accomplishing whatever their goals are. When I talk to my patients, it's not of much good if I tell them, well, you need these healthy things, but secretly I know that I'm eating junk. I practice what I preach. I eat pretty healthy food, a lot of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods.I live 15 miles away from here, and I ride my bike to work most of the year. And I'll ask my patients, how do you think I got to work today? And they'll say, I guess you drove or something, or you walked.And I say, no, I live 15 miles from here, and I rode my bike. And if I can find time to ride my bike for an hour here and an hour back, then you can find time for that.

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