Mud stained tees, scraped knees and a couple of loose cents (secret tin box addition, just $ 4 more to go for that hand video game), if you have lived the 80s and 90s you can probably relate to this portrayal of the “the life and times of a thunderbolt kid”. I am using this epic title of Bill Bryson’s memoir where he’s portraying the classic 50s but I am sure even 90s kids can relate to this hilarious and insightful gem of a book.
Now, you may wonder why this sudden walk down memory lane? What it’s got to do with a blog on obesity in children? Allow me to explain and elaborate. Well for starters, kids looked and behaved like a kid should be. Kickball, sly fox, jump rope rhymes and many more, these classic yard games kept the kids active, mischievous and grounded. A race of “who gets to the Popsicle cart first” was heart pumping and important. And, Hoola-hoops, they were a piece of cake.
Then something happened, what is called “millennia”. Sleek gadgets, flashy phones, tablets took over the fancy of adults and kids too followed that suit. Why go out and play when you can virtually do the same, without breaking a sweat? Parents today, take great pride over the fact that how kids slay those unpronounceable Japanese games without moving an inch from the sofa. My little boy is destroying some kid in China on an I-Pad. Genius!
A cola in one hand, I-phone in another and pizza for dinner (who eats baked beans) and voila...You have a millennial kid of the block (aren’t they simply clones?). And yes, most of them have bulging muffin tops, double chin and a need for plus size clothing. Enters the unwanted tag of “Childhood obesity”.
Obesity in kids, what causes it?
Since, the wave of “say no to body shaming” has made us aware of the fact that, you simply can’t call someone “fat”. period. But when we see or know someone who has had a few extra kg to their frame, we can’t help but mentally analyse that person of taking extra servings of food, being lethargic, etc. Knowingly or unknowingly we end up passing remarks like, hey kid, you sure make a cute little fatso, don’t you?
Yes, bad eating habits and poor activity regimen may lead a kid to become overweight but blaming it entirely on the excess binging is brutal. There are many child obesity causes and multiple medical reasons for overweight children. Factors involved in making a kid pile up unwanted extra pounds can be due to genetics, endocrine issues and after-effect of some medicines too.
Ignored diet and poor lifestyle
Most moms have this dreaded worry of kids not eating enough greens and carb-free food. Kelly, mum of three shares a woe of kid’s reluctance to eat healthy wrap, boiled beans. They just don’t listen. And every weekend, “dial a pizza” has become a ritual. When we go for a yearly session of health check-up, the kid’s weight scale is way beyond the ideal weight charge. I am super stressed and sad about the fact that my kids are overweight. Experts advise that, unlike adults, kids won’t take the “why healthy eating is good for the body and soul” mantra so sportingly. Convincing and scolding them can often lead to coaxing, rebelling. Until being the couch potato after school hrs is preferred over cycling with friends, unfortunately, overweight and obese kids are a dire reality of the future.
Apart from the physical activity classes during school hrs, kids today don’t move at all. Weekdays are mostly pre-planned with school hrs, home assignments, and cell phones. Ditto for weekends, the only difference is that cell phones get a boxy companion of a takeaway meal of extra cheese pizza, three-storied burgers!!
Come to think of it, an older kid and teens should get at least 1 hr of vigorous exercise every day. And kids of age group (2 to 5 yrs) should be active several times during a day. Now, ask yourself, does your kid fulfill the daily quota of “recommended physical activity”? If not, then how can you make him or her move from the couch?
Now, one can’t blame the cheese sticks and Belgian Chocó cookies alone for fatness in the kids. Gene pool can play a crucial role in what kids weigh. Our genes can have a direct impact on the body frame and how the body stores and burns the fat. So, if you come from the history of low metabolism ratings, chances are that your kids will share the same physical traits and will take longer to burn calories. And, the result, a kid with a larger frame. As they will grow old, this can lead to a “permanent struggle with weighty issues” problem.
How to define obesity
A family physician or pediatrician often stresses you to check the BMI index for kids to know their body fat. Mostly we tend to ignore this numbered mechanism, simply over the “it is not that important” thinking. Well, as a parent you should know about this weight-height dynamism, which can tell whether you are raising an active, over-active or obese child.
A standard BMI chart for kids age (2 to 19) fall into one of four following groups:
underweight: BMI below the 5th percentile
normal weight: BMI at the 5th and less than the 85th percentile
overweight: BMI at the 85th and below 95th percentiles
obese: BMI at or above 95th percentile
For young children (less than 2 yrs), doctors prefer using the weight for length chart to check whether the baby’s weight is appropriate to his or her length. And if a child falls at or above 95th percentile bracket, he or she may be considered as an overweight baby.
Now, you don’t need to follow the BMI index chart blindly to receive a definite conclusion of a kid being overweight or obese. Sometimes, extra muscles add to the body weight (due to sudden changes in eating habits, puberty) which can show the overweight scale ratings even if the kid is healthy, active body-frame wise. Bottom line, BMI can show you the body fat present, but it’s not the ultimate measurement to determine body insights.
If you are worried about your child’s weight, lethargy and constant hunger pangs, binge eating issues, seek the expert’s help. The doctor may give constructive advice on eating and physical regimen. If needed, a blood test will be ordered to detect any medical issues triggering obesity and weight gain. Based on the severity and individual parameter of the child’s health report, the doctor may advise you to seek a Dietician or enrollment of a weight management program.
Health issues triggered by Obesity
The general terminology of “chubby is cute” is not cute anymore. Obesity is a serious medical issue in today’s gen-next kids which, if not treated at an early stage can put them at risk for serious medical ailments in the future. Obese kids tend to face lifelong health issues like battling high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc which can make their adulthood tense and worrisome.
Some parents might say, “My child is overweight but eats healthy”. We still need to be careful about this since the risks of childhood obesity are not to be taken lightly. Childhood obesity consequences can have huge impacts on the kid. If you are wondering, “why is childhood obesity a problem?”, take a look at some of the common health issues faced by obese children:
Kids may develop asthma issues due to the shortness of breath that restricts them to enjoy sports and other physical activities.
Due to lethargy and a limited amount of activeness, kids can have weak bones and severe joint problems. They can get easily tired with just a stroll in the park, ground, etc.
Obese kids generally develop a huge frame, meaning they appear taller and huge compared to their peers. It can give them a permanent tag of “old guy or girl” even in their 6th or 7th grade.
Obese girls mostly face the PCOD, PCOS (irregular menstrual cycles) issues which can have a direct impact on the fertility phase.
Disturbed, restless sleep is a common issue for obese kids due to the harsh snoring, breathing problems. If not treated it can lead to obstructive sleep apnea.
Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues are keeping the parents at a vulnerable side due to the serious weight issues faced by obese kids. These chronic ailments may lead to heart disease, heart failure in adulthood.
Sad, but obese kids are forever gripped with lower and vulnerable self-esteem due to the constant teasing, bullying by their peers. It further aggravates in eating disorder, self-abuse, etc.
Depression can come kicking in due to the constant fear of rejection by the society, friends and even from the family.
Read this blog of Bailey who shared her story of what it was like to be the fat kid. It’s honest and raw.
Remember, extra weight gain is a state and not a lifetime tag. With positive and constructive changes in habits, your “obese” child can come out of this “weight battle” triumphantly. They deserve your support and encouragement, not disapproval. Stay clear of the common obesity misconceptions. The simplest way you can make them understand is, “You are not fat, you just have fat”. Lose it and the whole new positive world waits for you.
There are many solutions to childhood obesity and related issues. They will help obese children counter long term effects of childhood obesity. Some constructive changes can be made with:
Go easy on sweets. “Parents are the cause of childhood obesity” is partly true if you always keep feeding them what you know to cause child obesity. Every time he or she excels in that painting completion doesn’t mean you reward them with Chocó basket. Appreciate the same through useful stationery items instead.
Stop over-flooding the plate. Keep your motherly affection in limits especially on the food front. Plate the food with basic portions. Keep a habit of just a serving more and say a firm “No” to extra cheese or mayo over weekly meals.
Allow them sweets and favorite snacks once or twice a week. If you ban these items completely, chances are that they will relish these delicacies outside the home and without your knowledge. Remember, kids have their own mindset and no parent wish for a “rebel beyond repair”. If you are looking at overweight child diet plans on the internet, make sure you don’t pick one that is sure to tire and annoy them.
Spend time together and make them understand about the role of “physical fitness” in the day to day life. Go out there and get a new bicycle if not already kept in the backyard.
Make them understand the important fact that there’s a life beyond smartphones, TVs, I-pads. If they can just see beyond these weight-inducing techno-supplements, they can craft the life more beautifully.
Constructive recommendations (age-wise) to cut off the obesity tag
As doctors always stress on and recommend, breastfeed the baby. Apart from numerous health benefits, it helps prevent weight gain in babies.
Inculcate good eating habits in the kids (age 1 to 5). Introduce them not so tasty but healthy foods like broccoli, millet, pulses, etc. Find smart cooking hacks to prepare a meal that looks and feels delicious. Encourage daily stroll in the park, cycling, and even those skating bruises.
For all the mum’s out there guard this chant of “Go out there and play” for young kids (age 6 to 12), especially in these times of techno-gizmo sphere. Get to know their preferences and encourage them to join a sports group. Karate, soccer or tai-chi, let them choose. And for the snack break, choose healthy titbits like granola bars, fresh juices over colas and cupcakes.
For the grown-ups, try to befriend them. Enjoy a slice of pizza and burger with them but only occasionally. Rest of the time, prepare a healthy meal together. Tell them how a kale sandwich is way better than the cheesy-wheezy one which is the main culprit causing those acne and extra bulge over the stomach. This will attack childhood obesity causes at their root and eventually prevent it.
Lastly, kids ultimately learn a lot from parents. If what you preaching can be seen in your outlook too, there is every possibility that kids will adore and worship you as their role model.
True, Obesity feels like a heavy word but it can be re-shaped with healthy consistency.
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