Many cases of overweight and obesity in children and teens are actually preventable with a healthy lifestyle.
According to a research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, there are 700 million obese people in the world. Of this number, 108 million are children.
Obesity in children and teens has dramatically increased at an alarming rate in the past few years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified that the greatest numbers of overweight among these age groups live in South Central Asia. While obesity cases in developed countries also doubled in recent years.
How obesity bulges out
Gaining a few extra pounds does not readily make a person obese. But once his body mass index, or BMI, is more than 30 kilograms/m², he is considered obese. BMI is computed this way: weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m²). Simply put, a child can be called obese when his weight is already at least 10% higher than normal for his height and body type.
Many people point to genetics as the primary cause of obesity. It’s unfair to say that! Let me tell you this truth. It’s true that children with obese parents are ten times at risk of becoming obese. Meanwhile, obese families are also likely to have obese pets. Obviously, there’s no genetic connection between the two propositions. But what I’m trying to say is that genetics is not the only culprit of obesity. Rather, obesity is determined by a combination of food choices, inactivity, and genetics. Most children and teens of the present generation become obese due to an unhealthy lifestyle. They eat more poorly and engage in physical activities less today than ever before.
Unhealthy eating habits. “Whatever you put into your mouth matters.” One of the contributing factors why many poor families in developing countries have unhealthy eating habits is that they are not aware or they lack the proper knowledge regarding sound approaches to nutrition. They are passive targets of aggressive marketing of high-fat, energy-dense, high salt and sugar foods, and laboratory-concocted beverages.
Affordability and scarcity of healthy foods in their locality are other major issues that these families have to deal with, leaving them no choice but to resort to cheap ‘junk’ foods.
Likewise, it’s a common cultural belief in many rural areas that ‘a fat baby is a healthy baby’. That’s why they are inclined to overfeed their children.
On the other hand, the diet of children and teens in the more developed countries is regularly composed of fries cooked in trans fat, soda, and cheeseburgers. Most of these individuals even consume candy, cupcakes, cookies, and doughnuts on a daily basis.
Sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity. Electronic games and a wide selection of television shows have efficiently kept children and teens glued to their seats before a screen for long hours. And this is a common problem in both developed and developing countries. Many children in highly urbanized centers, where space at home is limited, tend to just resort to passive television viewing and video games play than go out and get involved in active games.
Health complications of obesity
Keeping that extra weight in your body leads you to an earlier death. I’m not kidding! You may even ask your doctor about this. Among the many health conditions that you can acquire for being overweight or obese include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Lipid disorders
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Fatty infiltration of the liver
- Joints problems, like osteoarthritis
How to manage your child’s weight
Parents, aside from breast milk (of course), what is the first food that you feed your child each day? Is it something that heavily contains sugar and flour?
Sadly, it’s in our culture to treat the disease only after the degenerative illness manifests, a condition that is the result of years of nutritional self-abuse. Unless the two glaring issues I mentioned above were addressed properly, we will continue counting more overweight and obese in the next generations. Parents should start changing this unhealthy culture at home. Now!
First and foremost, consult with your family doctor to determine the cause of obesity in your child. If genetics is not an issue, then the next thing to do is to find ways to improve your child’s weight problem.
Dieting or simply measuring portions and eating fewer calories does not guarantee weight loss. It’s even bound to fail. Why? No matter how much weight you lose when you are on diet, you’re going to put it right back on when you go off. You should rather be conscious about what you eat, not on how much you consume. Eating large amounts of the right food is your key to losing weight permanently. You can achieve a normal weight once you start a high-nutrient diet style, regardless of your genetics or metabolism.
Parents, it’s important that your child or teen has the moral support of the entire family as he goes through the process of getting rid of obesity. Aside from feeding him a high-nutrient diet, you should also encourage your child to play with other children outdoors. Or, you can go out together as a family and get involved in some physical activities like biking, or bouncing at a public trampoline park. If going outside were not possible due to bad weather or for any other reason, you can install a treadmill at home. I assure you, walking or running on a treadmill is fun! Even non-obese household members can use the treadmill for regular exercise.
Obesity in children and teens is indeed a major problem that needs to be addressed before complications and serious health conditions occur.
For a comprehensive plan for maintaining a normal weight, I suggest that you read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live. The author proposes workable methods of achieving a sustained weight loss. I’m currently reading his book and although I’m not overweight, I’m applying his suggestions. It’s all worth it. We should all eat nutrient-rich food to maintain a healthy body and a sound mind.