As the epidemic of childhood obesity continues to rise and affect kids at younger ages, type 2 diabetes diagnoses in children and teens are becoming more and more prevalent. Although the climate for developing type 2 diabetes as a child can involve a number of genetic and environmental components, excessive weight and inactivity are among the leading contributing factors. In fact, 1 out of every 3 children in the United States are overweight, which puts children more at risk for developing unwanted health conditions.

Traditionally type 2 diabetes was considered to be a strictly chronic condition, but there have been several recent studies on possible type 2 diabetes reverses or cures. Though this theory is still in the research stage, there are known actions that children with type 2 diabetics can take to control their symptoms to the point of remission. The good news for a child who is overweight, or in the prediabetes stage, is that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through healthy diet and regular exercise. Similarly, if your child already has type 2 diabetes, weight loss through regular diet and exercise will absolutely have a life-changing impact on his or her overall health, self-esteem and quality of life.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes In Children?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that alters the way the body processes glucose, a simple sugar found in the bloodstream that is eventually used as energy for virtually all the body’s cells and organs. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body’s pancreas stops producing enough insulin or when the body becomes resistance to insulin entirely. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that takes glucose from the bloodstream and converts it into actual energy, meaning that without it, the body is not getting the sufficient energy it needs.

Type 2 diabetes is mainly associated to issues caused from being overweight, though there are other risk factors such as genetics, ethnicity, gender, fat distribution, and family history that can contribute as well. People with a high body fat percentage are more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes mainly because of the fat’s impact on insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the body does not properly absorb glucose from the bloodstream and convert it into energy. Although the exact scientific cause of insulin resistance is unknown, many scientists believe it is attributed to fat tissues primarily around the abdomen area. The theory is that fats around the waist produce hormones and other harmful substances that contribute to insulin resistance, as well as high blood pressure and high cholesterol to name a few. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is when the body cannot keep up with its own increased need for insulin.

Signs of Diabetes in Children

All children should go to their doctor to determine if they have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for developing it, because physical symptoms can easily go unnoticed in the early stages. Although every child should get checked, the following list details the most common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes in its developing stages.

  • Excessive thirst. Due to the lack of insulin production, the excessive glucose levels pulls water out of the bloodstream, causing extreme thirst (and more urination). 
  • Frequent urination. One of the major signs of type 2 diabetes onset is frequent urination. Because the body is not producing enough insulin to convert glucose into energy, the glucose remains in the bloodstream and eventually rises so high that it overflows out of the bloodstream, exiting through the kidneys and into the urine. Frequent urination also occurs as a result of increased need to replenish fluids.
  • Increased hunger. Without proper insulin production, the body does not receive the proper energy it needs, resulting in increased hunger.
  • Fatigue. High glucose levels in the bloodstream cause the blood circulation to slow down severely, preventing the body’s cells from receiving oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Some people with type 2 diabetes describe the diabetes fatigue as feeling “drugged.”

If childhood type 2 diabetes goes too long untreated, symptoms can become more severe and include nerve damage, blurry vision, foot pain, numbness in limbs, dark patches on skin, neuropathy, hearing impairment, amputation or even heart attack. It is very important you see a doctor for a thorough and comprehensive analysis of your child’s current health.

How To Encourage Child Weight Loss

If your child is currently overweight, in the prediabetes stage, or if he or she is a part of the 200,000 children in America already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, healthy eating and exercise is the best preventative treatment as well as type 2 diabetes symptoms management. As a kid, it can be very challenging to adjust eating and activity habits that make up daily routine, but there are some implementation methods that can make healthy changes a little more approachable for children.

Family Support and Involvement. Having open conversations with children about weight is an extremely delicate topic that can have an adverse affect on self-esteem and body image. A more tactical approach is to lead by family example. Lifestyle changes become a lot more attainable for children with family support and involvement, giving them an opportunity to form new habits. Try holding everyone in the family accountable for healthy habits including homemade healthy meals and activities on the weekend. If children are old enough, let them get involved in making dinner. This activity will help them understand the effort that goes into making a meal as well as give them an opportunity to learn about the health benefits of different foods.

Gratification and Rewards. In an American culture of instant gratification, it can be difficult to motivate kids to lose weight, as it is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and care. Ideally, kids would learn to delay instant gratification and incorporate healthy habits into every day routine, but rarely is it that simple. Parents should develop a reward system that is non-food related to motivate their kids to practice healthy behaviors. The reward system will be different for every kid depending on their personality, but could involve things such as toys, outings to amusement parks, or extra video game time.

Age-Appropriate Exercise Goals. It’s important to set age-appropriate exercise goals that kids will enjoy. Setting an expectation for kids to participate in organized exercise that involves drills or mundane cardio are unreasonable and unrealistic. What better way for kids to engage in physical exercise than with activities that engage and excite! Try getting the family involved in a game of kickball or a day at the water park.

For more tips on childhood weight loss techniques, click here.

The Wellspring Camps Experience

At Wellspring Camps, our mission is to enhance children’s quality of life by demonstrating that healthy habits are rewarding, renewing, and most importantly, fun. The diverse group of kids that attend our summer weight loss camps are truly what makes camp special. Because our camp is a melting pot of kids from all different walks of life, family backgrounds, and personalities, we strive to create an environment that brings kids together to form lifelong friendships through shared interests, motivations and lasting memories.

Each camper’s reason for coming to Wellspring is different. Whether parents are concerned about their child’s weight or kids are insecure about their own weight, each camper has a different expectation when arriving at camp over summer. Due to the sensitivity that’s associated with childhood weight loss (not to mention the anxiety of being in a new place with few friends), we strive to create an atmosphere where kids can meet other kids and simply have fun. Our camp routine focuses on introducing campers to a different approach on having fun that involves activity, fitness, the outdoors, and teamwork. Another component of our camp focuses on diet education, introducing kids to new wholesome meals that are both healthy and delicious.

Although our camp will equip kids with the knowledge and resources to sustain healthy habits, the most challenging part will be integrating what was learned at camp back into life at home when camp is over. From summer weight loss camp at Wellspring, our hope is that kids take with them a newfound desire to sustain healthy living and lasting friendship that will continue to motivate and inspire them to do better. For more information on the Wellspring Camps approach or camp information, contact us here.