A research conducted in 2012 had a startling revelation to make. More than 25 million kids in the US were found to be obese. The US Government has already identified child obesity as a major health concern and has declared it as a national epidemic in 2009. Let us understand this problem better.
Is your child ...
- .. sitting in front of TV or computer for long hours eating junk food?
- .. lazy to such an extent that he/she doesn't even want to move across the house?
- .. hungry all the time and eats too much of unhealthy food?
- .. averse to participating in physical exercise activities?
- .. having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of more than 30 at a very young age?
One of the many causes for childhood obesity is energy imbalance where kids are not able to consume the energy they get from the food as they spend less energy in physical activity. The habit of overconsuming junk food is unhealthy as it is another large source of fat which accumulates in body. Along with all other reasons causing obesity in children, hereditary genetic factors play an important role. Children with obese parents are at a higher risk.
Children with obesity problem are prone to many other diseases. There was a time when type 2 diabetes was found only in adults, whereas now it is common in obese children. Overweight children continue to be overweight adults inviting health hazards like liver problems, skin infections because of excess sweating, stress, fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, hypertension, hepatic steatosis and stroke.
Tips for Prevention
The number of children who are facing the problem of obesity has multiplied in the last few years and is sure to increase in the next few years.
Right Eating Habits
It is advisable to follow a proper balanced diet, but be sensitive towards your kids, as it is not possible to completely stop children from eating junk food or the food they like. It is better to educate them about the problems which they might face because of their unhealthy eating habits. Parents should communicate these problems to children and make them understand the consequences of overeating. Parents should also teach their children to control the excessive intake of junk food. This can be done by introducing healthy food supplements like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and cereals at frequent intervals to increase the metabolism. Parents should also control the food proportion and give small meals to children at regular intervals. Low-fat, low-calorie and low-sugar foods should be given to children. Drinks, juices and sodas laced with sugar should be avoided to control the sugar consumption. Children should be encouraged to resort to water instead of these beverages.
Switching to an Active Lifestyle
Most children today have sedentary lifestyles. They prefer playing games on their PlayStations, computers or mobiles. Sitting for hours without any physical movement makes children obese. It is very important to teach kids the importance of fitness. Parents should guide their children by encouraging them for physical fitness activities for having a healthy lifestyle. They should make their children follow a proper exercise program. It is observed that exercise has not been a successful strategy alone; it should be accompanied with other things such as educating kids about fitness benefits, encouragement of alternative fitness activities, etc. Children resent exercise when it is strenuous. Physical activities like bicycling, camping, trekking, swimming and skipping are enjoyed by children as they always prefer fun activities over exercise. They can also be enrolled for sports like baseball, basketball, soccer and martial arts which involve a lot of physical exercise. For setting a good example and to motivate children, parents should also participate in exercise or sports activities.
Most of the children today spend their time sitting in front of television for long hours. Gone are the days when children played around for the whole day and their mothers had to call them back home for study and other activities. Today, on an average 4 out of 6 children spend their time watching television for more than five hours a day. The present generation is very television-centric and sees their world through the idiot box. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should watch television for not more than two hours a day. But today in most of the homes, be it watching cartoons or other programs, children sit in front of television for 4 to 5 hours at a stretch and continue consuming unhealthy junk food. They keep on piling weight and end up becoming couch potatoes. Television access to children should be limited. Most children today have television sets in their own bedrooms. Moreover, children fall prey to the attractive advertisements of junk foods and are continuously tempted to consume them.
If you don't want your child to be obese and face any problem, then you must hurry up and talk to a good doctor. You should take care of the BMI of your child. Get your child weighed, calculate the height-weight ratio regularly and compare it with a health chart to keep control. You can also consult your pediatrician regarding the ideal weight your child should maintain, depending on the age, sex and height chart. A dietitian can draft a food consumption plan for your child. You can also take the help of a psychiatrist in making your child understand the problem of obesity, its causes and concerns. This will not only motivate the child, but also help in re-instilling his self-confidence.
Obese children face complex problems at a psychosocial level. They become soft targets for discrimination and bullying at school. This may also lead to psychological eating disorders like bulimia, and anorexia nervosa. They grow up facing a social stigma which affects their self-esteem, academics and social skills. Some children respond to these negative emotions of being teased and rebuked about their weight by overeating which in turn again leads to excessive weight gain. The families of obese children should make a special effort in providing them comfort and support. They should make such children feel loved and socially accepted, only then can obese children get back their self-esteem. The families should continuously motivate them to resort to exercise and healthy foods.
Prevention is Better than Cure
According to a latest research, a family with an obese child spends 30% more in health costs and 77% more in medication costs. Drug treatment is also available to bring down the problem of obesity in adolescents; however, no drug has been approved to treat obesity in children. Surgical procedures such as gastric bypass and liposuction have been performed successfully on adolescents. However, surgery for adolescents is usually considered only when severe medical conditions are present that can improve with the surgery. Hence, it is best to avoid child obesity in the first place.
The US government is also looking into the matter seriously. They have also started programs at school level to help children facing obesity. Government Health programs like Coordinated School Health (CSH) Program or Choose My Plate are contributing towards controlling obesity in children. The best way to save your child from this problem is to put him/her on a balanced healthy diet and a physical fitness regime.