What is childhood obesity? We love our children so much and sometimes we couldn’t resist letting them eat whatever they want. Cakes, ice-cream, dessert, juices, sodas, fast food, junk foods, processed food, and other commercially available snacks, who can resist these delicious goodies right? Even adults are also addicted to these foods, what more to say children?
These foods are high in sugar, salt and fats added into these food to make them even addictively tasty. The fact is, eating these food once in a while will cause no harm but if they eat it too much and skip the healthy daily meal, it will indeed cause physical and psychological health issues.
In today’s article, we will share some useful information related to childhood obesity, the causes and how to prevent it. Beside unhealthy dieting, we will also talk about other factors that may contribute to the childhood obesity. Please read on.
What is childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity means a condition (some people nowadays said it is a disease) where a child has gained excessive weight for his or her age and height, which will negatively affect his or her health and well-being. A child is considered obese or overweight, his or her Body Mass Index (BMI) fall at or above the 95th percentile of CDC sex specific BMI-age growth chart.
The percentage of overweight kids is growing at an alarming rate. According to WHO, the number of overweight children under 5 years of age in 2016 has reached over 41 million globally. Malaysia has been the top three countries in Asia with a high percentage of obese children age between 6 months to 12 years old, according to a study in the child and adolescent study in Asia conducted by Poh et al in 2013.
A chubby kid is not a symbol of cuteness. A thinner child who eats a healthy diet is more healthy compared to a chubby one who indulges in foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt with little to no proper nutrition. So, to those parents out there, think twice when you want to offer your little one unhealthy foods. Moderation is the key and these unhealthy foods shall not replace the proper healthy daily meals.
Causes of obesity in children
Many kids these days especially during the pandemic time, spend most of the time at home watching television, computer or playing video games. We understand that during this period, it is safer staying at home rather than going to crowded places. Many kids have gained excessive weight due to lack of exercise, and more screen time. We can’t do much about it if lock down order has been placed by our government to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
If we talked about normal situation, understanding how children become obese or overweight in the first place is important to break the cycle. Leaving the genetic part, most cases of childhood obesity are caused by over eating or unhealthy eating habits and too little exercise.
Here we are listing factors contribute to the causes of childhood obesity:
- Eating out more and less home cooking as both working parents are busy
- Easy access to fast food, junk food, addicted to high sugar food like cake, sodas, chocolate and ice-cream.
- Eat too much.
- Genetic related. If both parents are obese, chances of your child is getting obese too is 13 times higher.
- Kids spend more time watching television or playing games. Lack of outdoor activities.
- Kids come from poor families. They cannot afford buying healthy nutritious food. Foods are like instant noodles , processed food with high salt,sugar and fats contents like salted fish, salted eggs, salted vegetables, and canned foods are usually cheaper.
- Kids come from rich families. They afford to buy food and sometimes, they allow their kids to buy the wrong food and let them eat too much.
What are the consequences of childhood obesity?
Obesity does not only affect physical but psychological health issues. Talking about physical health, these overweight children will have several health issues such as :
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes type 2
- Fatty liver disease
- Bone problem
- Early heart disease
- Skin conditions problem such as heat rash, fungal infection and acne
- Sleep problems or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), narrower airway due to increased fat around his neck causing sleep disorder breathing problem.
Many other associated disease leading to the cause of obesity will start to appear if you can’t control your child weight gain. It is a serious matter as it is not only affect the overall health but their quality of life too.
Obese children have been reported are treated unfairly and sometimes they got bullied by other school mates due to the body size. Studies also show that these group of children will have lower self-esteem, less performing academically and affect their quality of life.
Dealing with obesity? 4 important tips
Healthy eating habits and healthy active lifestyle start at home. They best way to prevent childhood obesity is to get the whole family on a healthier diet and active lifestyle. Parents shall put more effort to initiate and execute the plan. Here are the 4 important tips to help you go about this.
1.Make your free time for cooking
It is like make your time for your work, you have to make your time for your family. Busy is not an excuse for not being able to cook healthy nutritious meal at home. Reduce the frequency of eating out and make more frequent home cook meals. Cut back junk food and fast food if possible.
Cook delicious meal with less salt and less oil. Encourage your children to eat more variety of vegetables and fruits. Make breakfast a priority as children who eat breakfast is unlikely to be overweight than those who skip the first meal of the day. Children who skip one meal will have tendency to eat more too.
Parents are in control of what food to be given to your children. Occasionally offer your children some sweet treat is no harm as long as they have their proper healthy meal each day.
2.Initiate activities for the family
Plan your family trip out in the weekend, like spending some times walking around at the park, cycle around your neighborhood, visit a playground, jungle trekking, visit a zoo, shopping mall etc. As long as they are away from the screen and have some physical activities.
You can also plan to have some indoor games with your child such as create pretend play, hide and seek, swimming or water games in the bathroom or card games etc.
Sometimes, it is also a good idea to let your child involve in your household chores like taking out trash, mopping and sweeping the floor, washing the car, do laundry, baking and cooking.
The whole idea here is to let your children do some indoor activities and stay away from the screen.
3.Reduce children’s screen time
Control your children screen time. Studies show that obesity is linked with screen time. Parents are able to do that by limiting your children’s screen time by spending some good time doing some activities together.
Avoid eating while watching TV. This is not a good habit munching snack or junk food while watching TV as your children will likely to eat more than the portion they usually eat. Make it a family tradition that all the family members shall eat together at the dining table.
Usually foods are offered as a reward if they have done a good job. We used to say, if you get your homework done, you can have an ice-cream as a reward. Try rewarding them with an outdoor activity like visit a playground, visit a beach or somewhere you can spend good time together to keep your child active.
4.Parents as role model
Parents shall initiate and execute family activities and promote your family healthy eating habit. Be involved in all the activities and make times for your children. If you want your kids to eat healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, it starts from us, as parents are their mirror. Can you imagine to stop your children eating junk food but the parents are eating them too. Be a role model for your child!
If childhood obesity is due to genetic, can you do something about it?
A person’s genes do influence body weight but it only contribute small part of the equation. Mostly if kids are able to maintain healthy weight gain by eating the right food and enough exercise, it is controllable.
If my child has already obese, what should i do?
The key here is to reduce the weight gain. Controlling his diet , cut down his sugary food, fast food ,junk food and eat more healthy food. Do more walking exercise and increase the exercise time gradually. Involve him actively at outdoor games or activities. Just need to balance his calories in and calories out.
If he is extremely overweight and has caused him some health problem, it is better to consult your doctor for appropriate exercise or activities as he has other health issues to consider.
Read more “How to get your kids to eat veggies?“, “Activities that promote kids’ cognitive development“, “Best toys for kids“