In the lighter mood: Dealing With Childhood Obesity

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In the growing-up years, little ones are pampered with all the foods they desire. Food may also be used as a quick fix to calm a child’s tantrums. These habits may turn cute and chubby kids into overweight and obese children. Obesity will lead to an inactive kid with a low self-image. While feeding your little one good food is essential, you must also keep a check on how it’s affecting her body. Here’s all you need to know about childhood obesity and how to deal with it.

The World Health Organization has recognized childhood obesity as the most serious public health problem of the 21st century. Obesity is becoming a global phenomenon that’s affecting all economic groups and more so the newer generations. Our little ones are addicted to colas, pizzas and burgers that only increase their risks of doubling up.

Childhood obesity has increased significantly in the past few years. Obese kids today are not only surrounded by the fear of deadly health hazards but are also prone to psychological trauma due low self-image and peer pressure.

This social and psychological pressure has negative implications on the child’s behavior. As compared to normal weight children, obese children are more likely to report a low quality of life and engage in suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Obesity needs to be addressed with a proper diet and exercise regime. However, good behavioural health is a must to see long term changes.

Sometimes, educational environments provide an opportunity for discriminatory situations which result in obese kids facing various troubles like harassment, teasing and rejection from other children and also biased attitudes from teachers. Obese children are also sometimes characterised as being sorrowful, lazy and not having many friends.

Understanding some of the key causes of childhood obesity can help you know where you are going wrong so you can start making better decisions for yourself and your family.

The Causes of Childhood Obesity

There is more than one cause of childhood obesity and you will be surprised to know these culprits:

1. Prenatal Factors: Over or under nutrition during critical periods of foetal growth may lead to a large or small size for gestational age, which increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

2. Genetics: Children of obese/overweight parents have a greater risk of being obese.

3. Diet: Many of us eat out, making home-cooked meals a thing of the past. Fast food and foods that are high in calories and offer very little nutrition is the on-going trend. Another major factor is that many kids drink extra calories that come from sodas and other sugary drinks.

4. Physical Inactivity: Many experts talk about TV, computers, video games, etc that entertain children while keeping them sitting around for hours at a time. However, physical inactivity is the major cause of childhood obesity.

5. Environment: Our schools are also to be blamed, since very few schools give importance to physical training or sports classes. Also, children are over-exposed to commercials for fast foods, candy, sodas and the likes.

6. Unhealthy Family Eating Habits: The unhealthy eating habits of parents and family members also leave a wrong impression on the child. Hence, children are influenced to eat unhealthy right from their weaning process.

Treating Childhood Obesity

Treating obesity in children is different from treating obesity in adults. Evaluating the readiness of the child and his/ her state of mental health is very important. It is crucial to speak to your physician or a dietician about options for treating childhood obesity before starting the weight-loss program. Here are some easy tips:

1. Never make the child starve.

2. Include healthier food options rather than omitting food completely.

3. Inculcate a habit to exercise regularly for an hour a day.

Dr Bijal Srivastava is a full time paediatrician and neonatologist at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.