20 Tips to Control Obesity in Kids

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Obesity
(Last Updated On: September 27, 2017)

The tendency of obese children growing into obese adults is higher. Also, health complications start at a lower BMI among Indians than in the west. Therefore, it becomes even more important for parents to know and control obesity in children.

What is overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity are defined as ”abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. This result from energy imbalance; energy in is not equal to energy out.

What are the health effects of childhood obesity? 

Immediate Effects

  • Likely to have risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol
  • Likely to have pre-diabetes that indicates a higher risk for development of diabetes
  • Risk for bone and joint problems
  • Metabolic syndrome – A no. of conditions that are all associated with high insulin levels including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems like asthma
  • Sleep disturbances like difficulty in breathing (sleep apnea)
  • Earlier than normal puberty or menstruation
  • Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • Skin infections due to moisture from sweat being trapped in skin folds
  • Fatigue
  • Polycystic ovaries, excess facial hair, infertility may occur in girls
  • Social and psychological problems – Stigmatization, Poor self esteem
  • May have poor self esteem
  • Increased risk for depression
  • May have poorer social skills
  • May have high stress and anxiety
  • May face learning problems

Long-term effects

  • Grow into obese adults
  • Heart disease, High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Dementia
  • Cancer of the breast, intestine, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, prostrate, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma 

Illustration of an Overweight Boy Jogging

How can you make a difference? 

  • Promote physical activity
  • Encourage walking/cycling to school whenever possible
  • Encourage informal physical activity (skate boarding, basket ball hoops)
  • Encourage participation in organized physical activities other than sports like dance, martial arts
  • Do not withhold play as punishment
  • Encourage the child to take frequent breaks
  • Plan a walk to a nearby park
  • Visit an orchard/farm 

20 Tips to Promote Healthy Eating in Kids 

  1. Increase water intake and decrease high sugar drinks including fruit juices
  2. A healthy breakfast improves concentration, class participation & grades
  3. Provide healthy options during meals and snack times
  4. Supervise children when eating
  5. Have at least one family meal in a day.
  6. Plant a kitchen garden
  7. Visit an orchard/farm
  8. Collect healthy recipes create a family cook book
  9. Involve children in cooking. Cooking simple dishes using healthy ingredients can teach students an important life skill. It will also help make healthy nutritional choices later in life instead of depending on junk food. They will be more willing to try new foods both at home and school.
  10. Increase visibility of healthy foods. Keep fruits, cut salad vegetables in transparent containers right in the front where children can reach for them easily. Push back the chips and biscuits inside the shelves.
  11. Never use food as a reward. Food (typically rich in sugar, salt and fat) is commonly used as a reward for good behaviour or to celebrate birthdays/achievements. The downside of this practice is
  12. It sends confusing signals to children
  13. Contributes to poor health
  14. Children learn to eat when they are not hungry and to reward themselves with unhealthy foods
  15. Associates food with feelings of happiness, accomplishment
  16. Makes unhealthy food seem to be more desirable
  17. Instead use non-food rewards like – Time with friends or family, a walk or a game with a loved one, visit to a park or a museum, a special ribbon
  18. Shop healthy. Make a list before you go shopping.
  19. Involve whole family in healthy lifestyle changes. Working out together, playing a game together is more motivating for a child.
  20. Be a role model. Always remember your child will do what he sees. So choose healthy foods and stay active. 

When to consult a doctor?

If you suspect your child is overweight, it is best to consult a doctor. The doctor will check family history of weight for height, the child’s growth pattern and check your child’s height and weight. He will check for any medical cause for weight gain. 

What is BMI?

The BMI considered the individual’s fitness and obesity indicator is the ratio of the body weight in kg versus height in m2. BMI is not reliable in children because their bodies keep undergoing physiological changes as they grow. IAP 2015 Growth charts (5-18 years), WHO approved growth charts for younger children, skin fold thickness, waist circumferences are used in children. 

What is the scenario in India?

  • Indian bodies are different from their western counterparts
  • They suffer from abdominal obesity.
  • Western people have uniform weight gain all over the body, uniformly obese unlike Indians
  • Indians have a high risk for diabetes and hypertension at lower BMI
  • India set to become the global diabetes capital by 2050 which is a direct fall out of obesity
  • Cut off BMI in India is 23kg/m2 as opposed to 25kg/m2 globally

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