Childhood obesity: When it becomes more than just “baby fat”

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Childhood obesity is on the rise in Singapore, so what can you do to help your not-so-little one lose that excess weight and be in the pink of health?

Remember when your little one was a chubby baby with lovely little rolls of fat that made everyone squeal with delight?

Now that your child is older and in school, being chunky may no longer be considered cute by the usual social standards and he might also be at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese.

If your kid is on the plus side, how will this affect his health and what can you do to help him?

Health risks associated with childhood obesity

Some studies have shown that children who are obese may face stigma from others and be the victims of bullying.

This could also affect their academic performance in the long-run.

Other health risks that may arise from childhood obesity includes:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Breathing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Gallstones
  • Shortened life expectancy

 

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Your little one’s lifestyle plays an important part in keeping childhood obesity at bay

What are the causes?

There are different factors that can contribute to your child’s weight problem, such as:

  • Unhealthy diet (too much junkfood, or overeating)
  • Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • High levels of stress
  • Certain medications

Treatment options for childhood obesity

If your kid is overweight or obese, here are several options you can consider to help him get rid of the excess weight:

Dietary changes

Try to cut out junkfood and sugary treats from your child’s diet and encourage him to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, and drink plenty of water.

Sugar is also the main culprit in causing undesired weight gain, which can be found in fruit juice, chilli or tomato sauce (ketchup), bread spreads (such as jams, kaya, chocolate spreads), and even bread — so read all food labels carefully to figure out the sugar content.

 

Encourage your kid to pick up a sport or engage in more physical activities

Increase exercise and physical activities

Let your child get some fresh air and have fun running around outside so as to get his heart pumping and his muscles moving.

If junior is vegging out on the sofa and just watching TV all day long or playing video games, then he won’t burn enough calories each day to maintain a healthy weight.

Prescription medication

A doctor can give your child a medical assessment and also prescribe some medication which will help with weight control.

This medication must be supported by a change in lifestyle and eating habits, so as to achieve positive results.

Bariatric surgery

Weight loss surgery is usually offered to those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 37.5 or higher, which is considered “severely obese”.

Bariatric surgery is a collective term for weight loss procedures such as a gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or gastric banding.

Although going under the knife may seem like a drastic solution to a child’s weight problem to some, it could be beneficial and necessary in the longrun as being obese can actually shorten your child’s lifespan.

theAsianparent spoke to Dr Melvin Look, Consultant General Surgeon and Medical Director of the PanAsia Surgical Group, who shared this with us:

“Most centres performing bariatric surgery for adolescents and teens would accept a minimum age of 10, although we also take into account the bone age and sexual maturity. Most importantly though, is the motivation and discipline for the individual to change his behaviour post surgery. For that reason most of our patients are in their late teens.”

Not just babyfat

Some might think that a plus-sized child’s chubbiness is just due to baby fat, but he can actually grow up to become an obese adult and be at risk of developing health complications and obesity-related diseases.

So if you are worried about your child’s weight, you can bring him to a doctor for a medical assessment and to discuss more about the different treatment options available.

Would you consider surgery to treat your obese child? What do you think parents can do to help prevent childhood obesity? Share your comments with us below!

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