Nowadays obesity is quite common in young children. Obesity means excess amount of body fat. The major cause of childhood obesity is our modern lifestyle. Children today eat more food items that are rather unhealthy and exercise less. As a result they are getting heavier and unhealthier.
It is surprising to see parents asking children if they want anything else to eat. Or is it a status symbol to feed your child junk food? Do you think by giving your child chips and coke you are doing him any good? A poor child on the roadside sitting in his mother’s lap keeps eating groundnuts, roasted corn (bhutta) or a seasonal fruit, which makes him immune to many diseases whereas the wealthier child becomes obese.
REASONS FOR CHILDHOOD OBESITY
■ Eating fat-dipped foods and junk food at fast food joints.
■ Some children have a tendency to eat food at very short intervals or whenever they see food.
■ They catch hold of anything that comes across such as fatty or oily food.
■ Lifestyle changes also add to the problem of obesity. Earlier mothers used to be at home taking care of the children. Now mothers hardly get time to cook at home and children are forced to eat outside.
■ As both parents are at work, children are left at home with lots of snacks and food. Children tend to avoid food and keep munching snacks.
■ In the absence of their parents children spend most of their time in front of the TV or computer.
■ High density living with fewer parks and playgrounds for children.
HEALTH PROBLEMS DUE TO OBESITY
► Obesity leads to lethargy. These children don’t go out to play or meet friends; they prefer staying at home.
► They become conscious of their weight and keep away from friends fearing they will make fun of them.
► They grow up to be obese adults with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
► Study suggests that although heart diseases are typically diagnosed in adults its roots begin in childhood. More than one study has shown that fatty deposits inside the artery walls, which clog and over work the heart, begin building up very early in life.
HOW TO PREVENT CHILD OBESITY
- Cultivate the habit of eating healthier food and make it a habit to eat meals along with your children.
- Do not restrict the child’s diet unless it is prescribed by a doctor or dietician.
- Prefer to eat home food as far as possible.
- Once he is done with eating, do not force your child to finish food left in the plate.
- Be active yourself and engage children in walking, swimming, cycling or playing badminton.
- Spend as much time as you can with them so that they stay away from computer games.
- Give a time slot for everything like going out for play, watching TV or computer, study, homework etc. Make him understand the importance of time and encourage him to follow the schedule regularly and see that he enjoys doing it.
- Ask school authorities to ban aerated drinks and junk food in schools.
- Bring home healthy foods and drinks and avoid or minimise junk food that your child loves.
It is alarming to note (according to a survey done by a popular daily) that nearly half of India’s 250 million adolescents are obese. These children would grow up to be obese adults with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and this will be further passed on to the next generation. It is a wake-up call to all parents. If your child is obese, it can be treated and controlled by the above-mentioned simple methods or you can consult a dietician/physician and take his advice.
By Nibhanapudi Suguna