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Obesity in Children

The sight of children running around a playground or in the yard is no longer common. Thanks to technological advancements, they now prefer to stay cooped up indoors consumed by video games and television sets. The most extensive activity will be reaching into a bag of potato chips or cookies. This is the sad but true situation afflicting a large percentage of the child population. Obesity in children can now be considered an alarming problem requiring urgent solutions.

Defining obesity has always been a debatable issue but a consensus seems to have been reached. It is generally believed that body mass index is the best way to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. It is a fairly simple calculation but it does not quantify body fat. Using body mass index on children is tricky, especially when they are adolescents or pubescent. This is because at this time they are experiencing hormonal changes and rapid growth rates. It is therefore advisable to seek medical advice when in doubt.

Many factors contribute to the shocking rate of obesity among children. Lack of exercise, electronic devices, fast food and genetic factors are the key culprits. The combination of television and fatty, over processed foods has gradually led to the weight epidemic. In the current fast paced world, parents have little or no time to monitor the activities of their children. To make matters worse, physical education in schools has been downgraded. Obese children are often unhappy. They are teased and constantly made fun of. This leads to low self esteem and further eating disorders such as anorexia. They are also at a risk of developing serious medical conditions such as high cholesterol, hypertension, insomnia, joint problems, severe depression and heart disease.

It is possible to prevent obesity by applying basic healthy practices. Children require guidance and the whole family needs to be involved. Good habits should be taught at an early age. Emphasis must be placed on the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. This type of lifestyle is not a punishment or life sentence. With a little creativity, children can be entertained without the use of refined foods and sweets. Healthy meals can be eaten during picnics. Exercise can also be integrated into daily activities that are enjoyable.

Unfortunately, some children are past the preventative stage. They already suffer from obesity. In this case, parents should be supportive and love their children regardless of their size. Open discussions about the importance of eating well and exercise are encouraged. Certain foods can be saved for special occasions or weekend treats. No food should be totally off limits because the child will feel oppressed. Parents of obese children are often accused of causing the problem and enabling them to overeat. They use food as a distraction, reward or comforter. It is important to discourage a sedentary life and increase physical motion. A small 5% loss of body fat visibly improves health and physical appearance. The good news is that changing a child’s lifestyle habits is not difficult and can have positive, long lasting effects.