Tips on combating childhood obesity

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Childhood obesity is not something to be taken lightly. Parents, you owe it to your kid to raise them healthy so that they lead a wholesome life. Here are tips on helping your kid combat childhood obesity!

Childhood obesity has been on the rise for the last decade. It was described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century".

The WHO estimated that there are more than 42 million overweight and obese pre-schoolers globally. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, it added.

Many other studies also show that the number of obese children has more than tripled over this period. I don’t have to tell you that this is a problem we need to get a handle on--for the health and safety of our children.

Determining childhood obesity

What is childhood obesity? Obesity is having too much body fat. In children, paediatricians classify a child as obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal body weight for a child their age and height.

For example, the average height and weight for an 8-year-old girl is 45 inches tall and 57.2 pounds. So an 8-year-old girl weighing 68 pounds or more would be considered to be an obese child. You can also work out your child’s BMI (body mass index) to determine if your child is obese. The BMI index measures the amount of body fat compared to their height and weight.

What does it matter?

Some parents argue that we shouldn’t focus on what a child weighs--that there is too much pressure put on children and teens to be thin and that being thin is equivalent to being pretty. That’s true--there is too much pressure and emphasis put on our looks. But looks has nothing to do with it. Childhood obesity is all about keeping our kids healthy.

Children who are obese are at a much greater risk of developing diabetes. This incurable disease is difficult to deal with and leads to a number of other health issues including circulation problems that often lead to amputation, blindness and kidney problems.

Childhood obesity also leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems and digestive troubles.

And last but not least, childhood obesity is damaging to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Their inability to run fast and play hard makes them the last one picked to play dodge ball, gives other children someone to tease and taunt and makes a child feel self-conscious in how they look wearing certain types of clothing, wearing a swim-suit and so forth.

Why the increase in childhood obesity?

The increase in the number of obese children can be blamed on a number of things:

  • Lack of exercise: Kids aren’t sent outside to run and play like they used to be. This is often because most children spend their time in preschools and daycare facilities rather than being able to play in their own backyards.
  • Poor nutrition: In a world where fast-food and pre-packaged everything reigns supreme, a child’s diet contains more chemicals, fats and preservatives than anything else. These are all alien to our body. The human body was not designed to digest these things--so they usually end up storing them as fat.
  • Too much food: Portion control is not handled well by parents.

As a parent, what should you do?

What most parents don’t realise is that by allowing your child to become obese, you are setting them up for a lifetime of physical and emotional problems. That’s not what you want, is it? Of course not!

Just like making sure your child is safe from harmful and dangerous situations, you have the responsibility of making sure they learn to treat their bodies with the respect they deserve. That is why it is important to develop the following habits now--to keep childhood obesity at bay or to reverse the situation before it gets out of hand.

  • Make sure your child gets at least an hour of active play and exercise each day.
  • Cut sugar from their daily diet. Save the candy and ice cream as occasional treats only.
  • Fix meals from home--from scratch. Microwave dinners and popping a can open don’t count.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Provide healthy snacks for your children. You don’t get rid of childhood obesity by starving a child’s weight off.
  • Do not use food as a reward or as a tie to anything else emotional.

Childhood obesity is a real problem that needs to be dealt with. Whether your child is obese or not, today should be the first day of your fight against it.

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Written by

Darla Noble