The cases of childhood obesity and the number of overweight children are increasing as rapidly as an epidemic. To state the fact, obesity in children has augmented by more than 50% in the last two decades.
Between 1999 and 2004 there were marked increase in the amount of overweight teens. For girls, the number increased from 13.8% to 16%, and for boys, the number rose from 14% to 18.2%. (CDC, Obesity Still a Major Problem, 2006). If these trends persist, these numbers will grow even rapidly, increasing the weight-related health hazards and problems for children.
Being overweight can also have an effect on a person’s joints, breathing, sleep, mood, and energy levels. So being overweight can affect a person’s entire life-style. Obese children are also more prone to grow obese as adults, mounting their risk of serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.
A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not considered as a health risk for most people. But when people continue the intake of more calories than they burn, more and more fat are accumulated in their bodies.
Ultimately, the level of fat reaches a point where it can have an adverse effect on a person’s health. Most professionals follow published guidelines based on the Body Mass Index (BMI), or a modified BMI for age, in order to determine obesity in children. Others describe obesity in children as body weight at least 20% greater than a healthy weight for a child of that height, or a body fat percentage above 25% in boys or above 32% in girls. Doctors use the terms “overweight” or “obese” in order to describe someone at greatest risk of developing weight-related health disorders.
These days more people are overweight than ever before. Experts have termed this an “obesity epidemic“. This health problem makes young people along with adults to suffer — one third of all kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are reportedly overweight or obese. So younger people are now getting health problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes that used to affect mainly adults
Causes of obesity in children:
Many different factors cause this difference between calorie intake and consumption. The factors include:
Obesity tends to run in families.
A child with an obese parent, brother, or sister is more prone to become obese.
But genetics alone is not responsible for obesity as obesity will occur only when a child consumes more calories than he or she uses.
Overweight and obese kids are more likely to develop medical problems that affect their present and future health and quality of life. These include:
1. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and atypical blood lipid levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes
2. Bone and joint problems
3. Shortness of breath. It makes exercise, sports, or any physical activity more complex and may worsen the symptoms or raise the chances of developing asthma
4. Restless or disordered sleep patterns, such as disruptive sleep apnea
5. Tendency to mature earlier (overweight kids may be taller and sexually more mature than their peers, raising expectations that they should act as old as they look, not according to their age; overweight girls may have irregular menstrual cycles and sometimes even infertility in adulthood)
6. Liver and gall bladder disease
At present, children’s dietary habits have shifted away from healthy foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) to a much greater dependence on fast food, processed snack foods, and sugary beverages.
These foods are rich in fat and/or calories and low in many other necessary nutrients.
Patterns related to obesity are eating in spite of not feeling hungry and eating while watching TV or doing homework.
Poor family earnings and having nonworking parents are sometimes responsible for greater calorie intake for activity level.
The popularity of television, computers, and video games are increasing sedentary lifestyle for many children in the United States.
Children in the United States pass an average of over 3 hours a day watching television. Not only does this shed little energy (calories), it also includes snacking.
Fewer than half of children in the United States have a parent engaged in daily physical work out.
Only one third of children in the United States attend regular physical education session at school.
Parents’ hectic schedules and fears about security prevent many children from participating in after-school sports programs.
Certain medical conditions, including hormone or other chemical imbalances and inherited disorders of metabolism, can result in obesity, but these are very uncommon.
Certain medications can influence weight gain by changing the method of body processing food or stores fat.
Researchers surveyed 1,520 children; age between 9 and 10, with a 4 year follow up and revealed a positive connection between obesity and low self esteem. They also discovered low self esteem leading to 19% of obese children feeling depressed, 48% of them feeling bored, and 21% of them feeling nervous. In contrast, 8% of normal weight children felt depressed, 42% of them felt bored, and 12% of them felt nervous. Stress also can affect a child’s eating habits.
Children mature at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to determine if a child is overweight. If you consider that your child is overweight, consult your health care giver so that he or she can tell you if your child’s weight and height are in a healthy range.
Childhood is the appropriate time to prevent obesity and the possible consequences of obesity. Families, teachers, health care givers and also some close friends of children may play a crucial role in understanding better why some children become obese, what are the related health problems of obesity and what can be done to prevent childhood obesity.Obesity is a major health problem and we need to take some immediate measures both at individual and population levels. The parents have to play the most important role by being supportive. They have to engage the whole family in establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits. This benefits everyone and does not isolate the child who is overweight.
Do not force your child follow a weight-loss diet unless your health care provider tells you to do so. If children do not eat enough, they may not develop and learn as efficiently as they should. Make your child understand that he or she is loved, special, and important for your family. Children’s feelings about themselves often depend on how they assume their parents feel about them. Accept your child at any weight because children are more probable to accept and feel good about them when their parents accept them heartily. Also pay heed to your child’s concerns about his or her weight. Overweight children probably understand better than anyone else that they have a weight problem. Therefore they need support, understanding, and encouragement from parents as well as from the society.
It is imperative to first educate yourself about your children’s nutritional requirements and then implement what you learn to help your children follow a healthy attitude about eating.
If you are hesitant about selecting and preparing food for a healthy diet then talk to a nutritionist.
Purchase and serve more fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried) and you may also let your child select them at the store.
Buy fewer amounts of soft drinks and high-fat or high-calorie snacks such as chips, cookies, and candy. These snacks may be taken once in a while, but always try to keep healthy snack foods on hand and offer the healthy snacks more often at snack times in order to avoid fast foods.
Make sure your child is having breakfast every day. It may make your child energetic in order to listen and learn in school. Skipping breakfast can make your child feel hungry, exhausted which will ultimately compel him or her to go for less healthy foods later in the day.
Do not eat fast food so frequently. Even at the time of visiting a fast food restaurant, persuade your family to choose the healthier options, like salads with low-fat dressing or small sandwiches without cheese or mayonnaise.
Persuade your child to drink water or low-fat milk more often than fruit juice. Remember low-fat milk and milk products are essential for your child’s growth. Though 100% fruit juice is a healthy choice it is rich in calories.
Reduce the amount of saturated and Trans fats in your family’s diet. Instead, take most of your fats from sources like fish, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
Prepare healthy meals and eat together as a family. Eating together during meals helps children learn to relish a variety of foods.
Do not feel disheartened if your child will not enjoy eating a new food when it is served for the first time. Some kids will require having a new food served to them 10 times or more before they will eat it.
Avoid using food as a reward while encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert to a child to make them eat vegetables, for example, delivers the wrong message that vegetables are less important than dessert. This will make kids dislike foods they think are less valuable.
Begin with little servings and let your child ask for more if he or she is still feeling hungry. It entirely depends on you how to provide your child with healthy meals and snacks, but your child should be allowed to choose the quantity of food he or she will like to eat.
Be careful because some high-fat or foods and beverages rich in sugar may be strongly marketed to kids. Usually these products are linked with cartoon characters, offer free toys, and come in bright packages. Inform your child about the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods though these foods are not generally advertised on TV or in stores.
A healthy diet also includes 2 to 3 servings of foods from the meat and beans group. The list also includes lean meat, poultry, fish, cooked dry beans, eggs, and nuts.
Encourage your children to eat slowly because it helps them recognize the feeling of fullness and stop eating when they are full.
The family should eat together when possible and thus make meals a pleasant time for conversation and sharing the events of the day.
Don’t prohibit snacks. While incessant snacking causes weight gain, planned snacks are part of a healthy diet for children. A nutritious and tasty snack after school will energize children to do their homework, participate in sports, and play until supper.
Healthy Snacks Ideas
Your child might enjoy trying the foods listed below:
Fruit canned in juice or light syrup.
Small amounts of dried fruits, like raisins, apple rings, or apricots.
Fresh vegetables: baby carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or tomatoes.
Low-sugar, whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
Like adults, kids need daily physical activity. Some ways are mentioned below to help your child move every day:
Set a good model because if your child notices that you are physically fit and that you have fun doing it, he or she will try to remain active throughout life.
The best way is to restrict the amount of time your child spends watching TV, sitting at the computer, or playing video games. These activities burn little calories and also encourage snacking. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends moderate physical activity for kids regularly for at least 60 minutes. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute periods of activity during the day are just as good. If your children are not accustomed to being active, persuade them to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day.
Inspire children to enjoy physical activity that burns calories and involves different muscle groups like running games, swimming, skating, and riding a bicycle. The most effective activities increase the heart rate reasonably and cause mild sweating. Take care that your child should not feel exhausted, overheated, or severely short of breath.
It is essential for you to understand what your child requires. If your child feels uneasy participating in activities such as sports, help him or her find physical activities that are enjoyable and not embarrassing, such as playing tag with friends or siblings, jumping rope, or dancing to his or her favorite music.
Remain active together as a family and assign your child with active household chores such as making the beds, washing the car, or vacuuming. Also plan active outings such as a short trip to the zoo, a family bike ride, or a walk through a local park.
Set restrictions on the amount of time your family spends watching TV, playing video games, and being on the computer.
Encourage your child find fun things to do apart from watching TV, like acting out favorite books or stories, or doing a family art project. Your child may find that creative play more fascinating than TV.
Persuade your child to get up and move during commercials and discourage snacking when the TV is on.
Some of the common preventive measures in different age –groups
|Birth to Age 1||Apart from other health benefits, breastfeeding may help prevent unnecessary weight gain. Though the exact system is not known, breastfed babies may be more capable to limit their own intake and follow their own internal hunger.|
|Ages 2 to 6||Start good habits early. Help figure food choices by offering a wide range of healthy foods. Encourage kids’ natural tendency to remain active and help them acquire developing skills.|
|Ages 7 to 12||Encourage kids to remain physically active every day, whether through an organized sports team or a pick-up game of soccer during break. Keep your kids active also at home, through daily activities such as walking and playing in the yard. Let them be more engaged in making good food choices, such as packing lunch.|
|Ages 13 to 17||Teens like fast food, but try to divert their attention toward healthier choices such as grilled chicken sandwiches, salads etc. Make them how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home and in this way encourage teens to remain active every day.|
Few words on obesity:
A fourth of adult Americans suffer from obesity that gives birth to high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol. But many of us do not pay attention to obesity. Even if we identify the problem we avoid taking necessary actions. Recent world is quite sport enthusiasts as well as spectators; but when it comes to be involved in some sort of physical activities we hardly show any interest and prefer watching television. At the end of the day we reward ourselves with fast foods. Though teens crave for good health they are not willing to pay price to achieve it. But studies revealed that obese people do not live as long as an active person. So it’s time to wake up from the reveries and put some serious effort in order to achieve sound health- a key to mental happiness.