It was only a couple of days back that my neighbor visited me with her 10 year old son. She looked upset. Her son’s weight had become a major concern. The paediatrician mentioned that it is 20% more than normal. She did not know how to deal with this problem and was shy to take help.

Childhood Obesity, a Serious Issue

All this while, while everyone has been fighting towards eradicating malnutrition, childhood obesity had risen on one side and is ringing its warning siren. The worrying statistics is that as many as 15% of children (aged 6 to 11 years) and adolescents (aged 12 to 17 years) are obese.

When a person’s calorie intake is more than what he/she can burn out, the excess calories get stored as fat. This accumulation over a period of time leads to obesity.

What Leads to Obesity in Children?

Obesity can be attributed to two major factors – lifestyle and genetics. Agreed, that a family history of obesity is a major risk factor that cannot be changed but when it comes to life style it solely depends on parenting.

  • Food choices – In today’s fast-paced routine, it has become common to adopt unhealthy food choices. Consumption of regular junk food/fast food, sugary drinks, fattening foods and having large snack sizes are all the different ways that can lead to childhood obesity.
  • Lack of Physical Activity – There is a rapid decline in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in today’s young generation. Children are driven to school or are given bikes to get around to places. The activity of walking hasn’t been adopted as a practice at all. The combination of high calorie foods with a sedentary lifestyle is a major cause for weight gain. Also, with the level of education becoming very competitive physical activity takes a back seat in the school environment. Physical education is seen as a rest period between academic classes with no proper monitoring.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – With increase in entertainment for children via television, video games and recreational computer use they are becoming couch potatoes. Outdoor games and activities are replaced by indoor recreational activities. With both parents working mostly these days there is no supervision of what the child is doing once back from school. This works as much as in the child’s favor to be cuddled inside the house all the time.

What Can You do as a Parent?

But as the belief goes, a child’s behavior is a neat reflection of his/ her upbringing . So  much desired change in the child’s habits.

  • Encourage healthy eating habits – Including a healthy diet of adding vegetables and fruits, dairy products and cereals on a daily basis. Children should be encouraged to take nutritional foods while fast foods and processed foods should be weekend perks.
  • Limit junk food – Hoarding on snacks can be avoided. Frozen foods are best served at parties and get togethers at home.
  • Increase physical activity levels – It is suggested that at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day is necessary for the child; however an increase in this is even better. Having children travel long distances for school and extracurricular activities can leave them tired by the end of the day. Chart out their daily time table and include a good 15-20 minutes of rigorous exercise each day. You can accompany your child for a walk in the mornings or after dinner and make it a useful bonding time with them.
  • Make it sound fun to ‘be healthy’ – Make your child understand the pros and cons of leading an active lifestyle. Give them short assignments or sit with them to find out more about healthy foods. Involve all the members of the family in adopting sound habits. Appreciate healthy practices via non-food rewards.

The long-term health consequences of overweight begins in childhood or adolescence. This puts overweight children/ adolescents at increased risk for various chronic diseases earlier in life. So heed to the calls and initiate action right away.

It all begins with you starting out as a wise parent.