Childhood obesity - An evolving challenge of the new age

  • By Team TDO

Mom asked her son, "What will you do when you grow up to be as big as your daddy?"

Son replied, "Diet."

This joke is quickly turning into reality. Pizza, burger, taco, pasta, maggi, chocos, chips, chocolates, or coke - nowadays you can see kids stuffing this junk rather than eating home-cooked food. This is resulting in an alarming increase in the childhood obesity.

There is a well-known linkage between obesity and diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke amongst adults, but how many of you know that cute kids with plump tummy, chubby cheeks and central obesity develop cardiac dysfunction and insulin resistance right from their childhood?

Defining obesity: Obesity in children is defined as a condition of excessive accumulation of body fat to the point that it has adverse effects on health. Kids with body weight 20% more than the ideal for their age, sex, and height are considered obese.

Childhood obesity is mainly attributed to radical change in food habits like ingestion of calorie-dense, nutrient-sparse foods and lack of physical activity. Additionally, psychological factors like lack of parental attention, want of quality time with parents, criticism by friends play a crucial role. It makes obese kids spend more time indoors to avoid company and further pushes overeating, not just to satisfy hunger but to please emotions.

Parents encourage emotional dependence on food right from the childhood by offering chocolates and cookies whenever the child cries. So whenever the child is upset, angry, or irritable he reaches out for a chocolate bar or a cookie jar.

Genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalances also lead to weight gain in children. Risks associated with childhood obesity include health issues such as breathing problems, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, early heart troubles, Type-2 diabetes, bone problems, skin infections, obstructive sleep apnea, and psycho-social problems like low self-esteem and depression.

Here are some tried, tested, and approved ways of dealing with obesity:

  1. Switch and swap: Easy-to-make and ready-to-eat foods like 2-minute noodles may save mom's time, but it could be adding to the child's rapid weight gain. Canned, processed foods have loads of unnecessary fats, sugars, and oils, which mess up metabolism and pile up calories and kilos. Treat your kid with a whole-wheat sandwich and toss a roadside chat for a homemade frankie.
  2. Make food look good: Children are attracted to all that looks good, catchy, and colourful. Same is true for the food. Children will eat the dishes that look tempting without being fussy. Decorate the food with attractively cut salads-carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Use a colourful lunch box. Add some flavor to his milk. Tuck a slice of lemon on the glass of juice.
  3. Browse online: All new-era moms are internet savvy. Browse and download some healthy and tasty recipes for your kid. Chiwda, bhel, khakra, and even burger can be made healthy.
  4. Set an example: Kids learn a lot of things by watching their parents. Your kid won't part with his yummy burger, if you can't let go off that smoking stick.
  5. Talk to them: All the teasing and pressure of studies already tire the child's mind. Talk with your kids and try to explain to them about obesity in polite manner. Do not embarrass them in front of others.
  6. Be reasonable: Even adults can't give up junk easily, so do not expect kids to quit his favourite foods in one go. Give your kid the options of what he wants to quit first and give him some time.
  7. Go outdoors: Encourage sports like swimming, football, and running. Plan treks and outings. Cricket matches are boy's favourite. Skipping rope is great for girls. Work-out with your kid. Have a running race or swimming competition with your kid to encourage him.

Follow these and let your kid dream of becoming an astronaut or a cricketer when he grows up rather than going on a diet.