Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that has both immediate and long-term effects on the health of children and adolescents. Childhood obesity occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. Doctors and scientists are particularly concerned about the increase of obesity in children and adolescents because it may lead to several health issues that were earlier confined to adults such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity may also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
The most effective strategy to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and workout habits of your family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity will protect the health of your family now and in the future.
Symptoms of Childhood Obesity
Not every child carrying extra pounds is overweight or obese. Few children have bigger than average body frames. Usually, children have a different amount of body fat at different developmental stages. So you might not be able to determinejust by looking at your child whether their weight is a health alarm. Visit your child’s doctor to find out if your child’s weight could cause health issues.
If your child is gaining too much weight, you need to visit their doctor to seek advice. The doctor will study your child’s history of growth and development, family’s health history, and where your child stands on the growth charts. This will help decide if your child’s weight is a possible serious health concern or not.
Though genetic and hormonal factors can be responsible for childhood obesity, mostly it is caused by overeating and not enough physical activity. It often occurs when a child eats more calories than his/her body uses. If either of the parents is obese, there is a 50 per cent greater chance their kids will also be obese. Poor eating habits, medical illness, and stressful life events or changes are also responsible for childhood obesity.
Many factors increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight:
- Diet: Nowadays, a lot of kids are eating fast foods, baked food items, and vending machine snacks that are high in calories. These foods are responsible for weight gain among children. Children who prefer soft drinks over milk and juices are more likely to be obese as these drinks are high in sugar, fat and calories. Desserts and candies can also cause weight gain.
- Lack of exercise: Children who are less active and don’t exercise regularly also more likely to put on weight as they don’t burn calories through physical activity. Inactive leisure activities like watching TV and playing video games further worsen the problem.
- Family history: Family history also increases your child’s risk of becoming overweight. If most of the members in your family are overweight, it increases the chances of your child putting on more weight, especially in an environment where high-calorie food is consumed and there is no place for physical activity.
- Psychological factors: A lot of children eat too much to deal with problems or emotions, like stress, or to fight boredom. Most likely their parents have similar tendencies.
- Family factors: If you are one of those parents who buy convenient foods like cookies, wafers and other high-calorie foods, then you are responsible for your child’s weight gain. So next time you go grocery shopping, avoid the temptation of buying convenient foods. Depriving your child of such high-calorie foods will help your child lose weight.
Tips to prevent childhood obesity
Since medications and surgeries are not recommended for children, lifestyle changes are often the best and most effective childhood obesity treatment. You must encourage your child to eat a healthy diet and follow a regular exercise regimen to get a healthy weight.
Healthy eating: As parents, you are responsible for the food you buy and the food you prepare and decide where the food is eaten. Small changes can play a big role in improving your child’s health. You should buy fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid buying foods like cookies and prepared meals as they are high in sugar and fat. Always opt for healthy snacks.
Limit sweetened beverages: Limit intake of carbonated soft drinks as they offer little nutritional value and are high in calories.
Sit down together for family meals: Always eat at least one meal together perday. This is the time to share your day’s activities with the family and tell stories. You should avoid eating meals in front of a TV or computer which can lead to overeating.
Physical activity: Make sure your child is actively involved in some kind of physical activity. It will help them burn calories as well as build strong bones and muscles. These habits, if established in early age, help youngsters maintain healthy weight regardless of hormonal changes and they are more likely to become fit adults.
Tips to increase your child’s physical activity:
- Limit leisure activities like watching TV, playing video games and sitting in front of a computer not more than 2 hours a day. It will help to increase your child’s physical activity level.
- Emphasize activity. Encourage your child to participate in extra-curricular activities. You can allow children to play games like hide-and-seek, tag or jump-rope. They will enjoy the group games and it will help them to burn extra calories and improve fitness level.
- If you want your child to be active, be active yourself. Look for fun activities the entire family can participate in. Avoid making exercise seem a punishment or boring.
- Look for activities your child likes to do. Your child may be artistically inclined. You can go on a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks. He/she can use these rocks and leaves to create a collage.