Who does not like a chubby baby? If you pass through the nursery of any hospital, you won’t be able to leave it thanks to the really cute, chubby babies who can barely open their eyes. However, wanting them to stay chubby even when they are 3 would be a folly.
Childhood obesity is on a rise throughout the world. It not only leads to health problems in the childhood but also leads to physical, emotional and social problems later on in life. We all know the popular reasons that cause childhood obesity – sugary beverages, junk food, genetics. As parents, we curtail the first two as much as we can.
Even though childhood obesity has been linked to genetics, there needs to be a strong associating factor to drive the child towards obesity. According to a recent study, lifestyle choices of the parents are hugely responsible for the obesity in children. Simply put, your child is not chubby merely because at least one of her parents is. It is because of the lifestyle choices you make as a parent.
Needless to say, it happens unknowingly. This article is aimed at highlighting 5 things that parents do that may cause childhood obesity.
1# Screen time
Do you just switch on the TV or hand your bub an iPad just to make her eat? Research has shown that the exposure to screen time affects the circadian rhythm of the body. Thin, in turn, may lead to obesity. Another pitfall of screen time is an early exposure to advertisements. Research shows that children under 6 cannot differentiate between the entertainment content and advertisements. They have a strong recall of those ads and as a result, these ads end up being exploitative.
Are we not guilty of letting the child buy his favourite cereal just because it comes with a toy? How often do we insist on comparing the labels?
Solution: Encourage your child to engage in a dialogue while having food. Talk and sing to your babies instead of exposing them to a screen. You can even hand them a colouring book if someone is feeding them.
2# Driving the children to schools
We are all in a hurry. So I don’t blame you if you drive the children to school. However, this has drastically reduced the activity of the child. Logically, a child dropped to the school in a car would walk much less than his friends who take the public transport to the school. The time thus saved would also not be utilised for exercise. In short, there is nothing to be gained in the long term by driving your child to school.
Solution: Send your child to the school by the public transport as much as you can. Let him ride a bike if he can.
3# The mall culture
There is much shopping to do over the weekends. And, it is hot outside. Naturally, the family ends up spending a lot of time over the weekends in a mall. Guess what, this might just be adding to your child’s obesity. Think about it. You shop a lot, and then your child tells you she is tired. The artificial illumination, air conditioning and the exposure to appealing displays of junk food all contribute towards childhood obesity.
Don’t you sit down and have some ice cream or the latest ‘happy meal’? You justify saying that it is just over the weekend. Well, when you set junk food as a reward/compensation for something, it affects the reward mechanism in the young child’s brain.
Solution: Shop online and spend the weekends in parks. Pack a picnic and eat healthy food!
4# Frequent snacks
Your child’s friends are home and you need to fix a quick snack for them. What do they demand? Potato chips! They are children and they would love some chips. However, research indicates that frequent snacking on junk food between meals can lead to obesity later on in life. The increase in portion size has also contributed towards overeating.
Solution: Offer them plenty of water and try and come up with healthy snack alternatives.
5# Late nights
Do you allow your child to sleep late just so that he wakes up a bit late? Research suggests that the nature of sleep, and not just the duration of sleep in important for a well rested brain. Children often stay up late and end up snacking just to delay the bedtime. This leads to an unnecessary intake of food. The quality of sleep deteriorates with daylight. So, it is important that they sleep on time and get up on time.
Solution: Don’t watch anything 2 hours before their bedtime. Tuck them in with bedtime stories. Stick to this timetable no matter where you are.
Mums and dads, you may not realise it but some small precautions on your part can lead to monumental improvement in their quality of life later on.
Also read: Interview with Dr Nataniel Viuniski: What you MUST know about childhood obesity.