Obesity in children is a serious issue. An obese child is most likely to grow into an obese adult. And that’s just the physical aspect of it. Weight issues affect the emotional and social aspects of their lives. Which only become worse as they grow into dented and damaged adults with low self-esteem, social anxiety and eating disorders.
Harms of Obesity in Children
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Can show sign of Diabetes;
- Disabling degenerative disease of the joints;
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon);
Numbers are Alarming
Statistics gathered by WHO show that the number of overweight or obese infants and young children (aged 0 to 5 years) increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 41 million in 2016. If current trends continue the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally will increase to 70 million by 2025. Tell me it doesn’t frighten you!
We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
— Stacia Tauscher
It is easier to mould their habits now than in adulthood. As parents, it is our responsibility to show (and Not tell) them what it is like to make healthier choices. While eating and taking care of our health.
Reasons Child is picking up wrong eating habits
Some of the reasons for obesity are ( this is a no judgement zone parents):
1. Eating meals out of packets. We all have days when we were too tired to cook a meal and reached out for a box of Mac and Cheese. Or ordered a pizza for our babies. And that’s okay! Give yourself a break. But do not make it a weekly habit. With both parents working, it can get difficult to have full-on home-cooked meals. But with the right planning, it is achievable. Trust Me.
2. Excess of online entertainment has reduced the time children spend outside. Causing a steep decline in their physical activity.
3. Snacking habits. With globalisation, there is no type of snack you cannot find in your local departmental store. With so many delicious options and increased spending power that we so gratefully have. It easy to give in to our children’s demands.
4. Nuclear/ small families have increased children’s nagging power. As parents, we give in too easily nowadays.
5. The price difference between healthy food products and junk food. A bag of organic greens can be priced at $8/bag and a burger available for as low as $1. Houses running on budgets have to counter in these factors too.
6. Genetics. Where both parents are obese.
Like I said, No judgement. Whatever the reasons maybe. You can start making the changes starting today.
Emotional and Social damage obesity does on the child
An overweight child is the first target of bullying and victimization. Name-calling by peers and the inability to take part in the activities that their friends are easily performing can damage a child’s confidence. Only the tip of an iceberg.
Here’s an article on how obesity affects the emotional and social well being of a child.
How to know whether your child is Obese?
As parents, we obsess about feeding our children and ignore what is in front of our eyes. So, BMI is the keyword here. Anything beyond 85th percentile is a sign that you have an obese child. Your child’s paediatrician will inform when it’s off the charts.
Effective Ways to Avoid Obesity in your Child
1. Breastfeed the child till one year
Evidence shows that breastfeeding protects children from obesity.
2. Love them
They are carrying their body weight on their emotional health, more than you are. All they need is your love. They need to know they you love them despite their weight.
They are at a tender age. Too young to understand the consequences of all the chips and candies eaten today. Use age-appropriate language to make children understand the health risks.
4. Reduce fat, Sugar and Salt content in their food
Some strict yet much-needed steps to be taken.
5. Present healthier food choices
Take your children with you for grocery shopping. Ask them to read the labels (if their age permits). Involve them in the weekly meal plans. It’s a hands-on way to show children the balance of good taste with healthy ingredients.
6. Model the behaviour you would like your child to follow
Parenting rule #1. You want them to follow a healthy lifestyle? Live that lifestyle. They will follow without you telling them once.
7. Importance of Physical Activity
One hour of physical activity is advisable. It improves their fitness levels, social skills and emotional health.
8. Incorporate activities that they enjoy and go slow
If the child likes to ‘play catch’ then go start with that. Don’t choose activities that are too tough for them. that ensures fewer chances of them giving up. Small steps go a long way.
9. Don’t single them out
If the family is eating pancakes and the child has to eat fruit for breakfast. It’s unfair on the child. Plan family meals where everybody eats the same food.
10. Ensure they get enough sleep
Sleep schedule affects eating. The studies stretched from Europe to the U.S. to Asia. And around the world, the pattern was the same: Kids who didn’t sleep enough were more likely to be overweight or obese.
To see your child struggling with weight and possibly leaning towards disease is not a pleasant sight for any parent. By being in denial or wanting to please your child by being submissive to their food/health choices. You are not doing them a favour. With a little bit of routine, lifestyle change and lots of love you can avoid health risks for your beloved. They are too little to realise it now. But they will thank you one day.
What have your challenges been while inculcating healthy diet habits in your children? Do let us know in the comments section below.