How Obesity Affects the Whole Family


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 36 percent of Americans are now considered obese, with an additional 34 percent considered overweight. Although these and other statistics regarding obesity in America may no longer come as a surprise to most of us, it doesn’t make them any less alarming.

The effects of obesity go far beyond a person’s clothing size, scale number and physical appearance. Obesity adversely impacts one’s health in many ways, creating a poor overall quality of life. This disease can negatively affect every area of a person’s life, from career and income potential to family dynamics.

Today we’ll focus specifically on how obesity can affect the whole family — and provide some tips for how families can work toward a healthier lifestyle together.

Having obese parents increases a child’s risk of obesity 

An exploratory study by Stanford Medical School researchers found that the factor that puts children at the most risk of being overweight is having obese parents. During this study, researchers monitored several areas, including:

  • Parent weight
  • Infant weight
  • Parent eating behaviors
  • Child eating behaviors
  • Child activity levels
  • Child temperament
  • Child sleep time
  • Parents’ concerns about their child’s weight

Out of all of these areas, the study found parental obesity to be the most potent risk factor for child obesity, showing that 48 percent of children with overweight parents became overweight, as compared to 13 percent of those with normal-weight parents.

While the connection between overweight parents and overweight children is likely due to a combination of genetics and family environmental influences, family influences can’t be taken lightly. It can’t be denied that the bad health habits of parents will most likely trickle down to children.

The good news is that this means the reverse is also true: good health habits of parents are likely rub off on kids.

Tips for working toward a healthier lifestyle as a family

So what can parents do to build habits that will get their family on the right track toward a healthier lifestyle? Lead the way by setting positive examples and encouraging the entire family to participate in healthy habits together.

Below are some ways to incorporate healthy habits into your family’s routine that will be enjoyable for everyone and raise your family’s quality of life.

1. Stay active together

Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is key to getting healthy and reducing the risk of obesity and other health issues. To ensure that getting active becomes part of your family’s lifestyle in the long term, choose activities that everyone enjoys doing. Swimming, walking, hiking and biking are some great family activities to try.

2. Move every day

In addition to participating in activities that may require a bit of planning or take a longer period of time, like those suggested above, be sure to carve out 15-20 minutes a day to get active together at home.

Whether you throw on some energizing music and show off your best dance moves or head outside to jump rope, play catch or kick a soccer ball around, everyone will have fun getting their bodies moving and working up a sweat.

3. Prepare more meals from scratch

While relying on restaurants, takeout and processed foods may be convenient, it’s a quick way to derail your healthy lifestyle efforts. Cooking more meals from scratch is the best way to ensure that you know exactly what you and your family are consuming. Work together to come up with healthy meals to make and enjoy at home most days, and reserve eating out together for an occasional treat.

Be sure to get your kids involved in the cooking process, allowing them to perform age-appropriate tasks. This will set the foundation for them to be able to successfully cook healthy meals for themselves as adults.

4. Stock up on healthy snacks 

Reduce the temptation to eat junk food in between meals by keeping unhealthy snacks out of the house. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks like fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, healthy dips and whole grain crackers for everyone to snack on when hunger strikes.

Also, ensure that everyone packs healthy snacks to bring to work and school to they won’t need to grab something out of a vending machine or stop for fast food.

If all of this seems intimidating, that’s completely understandable! Tackle one habit at a time and, once it’s established and everyone is in the groove, add on another and go from there. New habits aren’t created overnight, so remember to have fun in the process and don’t get discouraged — the benefits of a healthy lifestyle will be well worth the effort for everyone!