Health Risks & Causes of Childhood Obesity, Measures to Prevent Obesity
Created by Tanuja Sodhi Updated on May 27, 2021
A Fat Child Doesn't Mean a Healthy Child!
13 years ago as a fairly new mother of a 2-year-old, fat & chubby meant cute and healthy; & I (more than him) basked in all the attention & adulation he got as a roundly cuddly child; only until the doctor curtly burst the bubble of my delusion one day. He opened my ‘fat’ eyes to the perils of nurturing a fat kid.
Cut to Circa 2012, the statistics of obese children have never been as alarming as they are now. Over a period of two decades, the average weight of children has increased by over five Kgs. A ‘few’ extra kilos have a very positive connotation to the parents, and their overweight kids are euphemistically referred to as "healthy".
The other day, I was quite amused while consulting a young distressed mom for her 6 months old chubby and robust infant. Her major worry was that the baby had suddenly lost interest in drinking milk and that he may have lost weight as a consequence. On prodding further, she revealed that the baby had just been started on a solids diet 3 times a day. Everything immediately made sense to me. The baby happened to have a baby’s appetite! While he was enjoying the new taste of solid foods, he just wasn’t hungry enough to glut himself on milk to please his angst-ridden parents. And the perfectly healthy, active and ‘well fed’ baby weighed a good 10Kgs which is anything but underweight for a 6-month-old baby. The weight-related paranoia is rampant amongst parents and is playing havoc with the young lives.
Health Risks of Childhood Obesity
So, why do you think being overweight is just not cool? Simply because the kids carry with their excessive weight, the massive risk of a debilitated future mired with lifestyle illnesses. These maladies were earlier known to affect the adults only, and are now flagrantly gnawing at the health fabric of our kids. These are:
- Type II Diabetes –formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, has now become increasingly prevalent amongst overweight children.
- Eating Disorders - such as Bulimia & Anorexia Nervosa and binge eating.
- Heart Disease — including high BP, high cholesterol & hardening of the arteries.
- Respiratory Disorders - such as Asthma; shortness of breath making exercise/any physical activity difficult.
- Sleeping Trouble- overweight children are at risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is a potentially life-threatening breathing disorder which could even lead to heart failure.
- Orthopedic Disorders – bone, joint and foot structure problems.
- Liver & Gall Bladder Disease - such as fatty liver, Gallstones & Cirrhosis.
- Cardiomyopathy – a problem with the heart muscle, caused when extra effort is needed to pump blood.
- Depression & Low Self-Esteem
- Overweight Adults - To top it all, overweight children are very likely to become overweight adults. Having an overweight parent doubles their likelihood of becoming overweight adults.
The list is exhaustive and would surely chill and unnerve every conscientious parent who wishes well for their child. Now, the question is ‘who/what blew up the kid’ in the first place?
Major Causes of Obesity
Let us quickly run through a list of major offenders leading to an overweight child.
- Wrong Food Choices – Choosing high fat and sugary foods & drinks which are readily available. Much of what we eat is quick and easy, from fat-laden fast food to prepackaged meals. Aggressive marketing of energy-dense foods has aggravated the situation further.
- Lack of physical activity- More time is being spent on sedentary pursuits like playing with electronic devices from computers to video game consoles to watching TV, than actively playing outside.
- Overweight parents – If the parents are overweight, the child is very likely to be overweight, as the family’s eating patterns can have a major influence on whether a child maintains a healthy weight or not.
- Ever Increasing Portion sizes – Due to improved economic status.
- Genetics – If there is a family tendency to become overweight, it could lead to childhood obesity.
Where there is an affliction there has to be a cure in sight. So yes, you CAN press the ‘undo’ button and wish the extra kilos away while the kids are still young. So, the key to keeping kids at a healthy weight is taking a whole-family approach- the "practice what you preach" approach. Parents have to lead by example as young children need role models.
Measures to Prevent Obesity
Some of the most important and commonsense strategies for preventing obesity:
- Inculcating Healthy Eating Habits- Parents need to understand how high-fat and high-sugar foods (such as candies, cookies, cakes) are compromising children's diet. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available such as, a variety of seasonal fruits; green leafy /cruciferous/bright colored anti-oxidant rich vegetables; cereals & grains; legumes & lentils like dals/dried beans/sprouts; dairy products like milk/curds/cheese/paneer; eggs; fish & chicken; nuts & dry fruits; and seeds (sunflower, melon, flaxseed etc).
- Establishing Daily Meal and Snack Times and Eating Together as a Family as frequently as possible, and allocating sensible portions.
- Making Exercise a Part of Daily Routine-- Children need to exercise regularly to expend some of the calories consumed. It may be a sport, runs, walks, bike rides, hikes, active games, etc.
- Reducing Sedentary Activities --Cut the time the child spends watching television, playing video games or using the computer.
- Discouraging eating while watching TV-- This makes it difficult to pay attention to the feelings of fullness and may lead to overeating.
- Stopping force-feeding – especially when the kids say they’re not hungry.
So, the verdict is loud and clear: Being fat is just NOT healthy! Have an overweight kid? It’s imperative that you change your approach now! Your clock is ticking! Your child’s health is at stake. Need I say more?
Image source - topnews.com
| Jan 23, 2013
Julie... I would need more inputs on your child's diet to be able to pinpoint the reason for obesity. As a habit, avoid giving fatty, fried and spicy foods to her. Rest easy, children outgrow GERD as they grow older by fine tuning their eating habits and following a healthy lifestyle.
| Jul 09, 2015
hi Tanuja ... was really happy to see this article .I am so fed up of people telling me my kids look weak and underweight !!! why dont they measure children by how happy abd active they are . As mentioned by Manjushree earlier it will be great if you could write and article on underweight children .. I am sure there maybe a few tips that can be eye operners for us too ...thanks once again !!!
| Jul 10, 2015
Thanks for the article.. Another important reason for child obesity is that babies are fed formula milk and other gruels before 6 months... When actually babies just need their mother's milk during that time. For mothers who are unable to breast feed. , they should be very careful about how much formula is being fed..
| Jul 10, 2015
my son is 4 year old. his weight is about 20 to 25 kg. He is a hyperactive child. He don't eat any type of fruits n also green vegetables except juice n soup. He is very choosy to eat anything .Day by day his weight is increasing . especially his thighs n stomach is getting heavy. What should i do for that. plz suggest me
| Sep 03, 2015
Wreally veii good Article... Thanks Tanuja, My Daughter is of 8 months but doesn't eat properly... i prepare moong daal khichdi n kind of stuffs but she refuses all the time... dr said its ok dont force her but what if she doesnt eat for whole day... or couple of days... kindly suggest. ( Kavita)
| Jul 28, 2017
very nicely written. my kid was 21 kgs at the age of 3. ,then we took all the necessary measures including healthy diet and exercise and now he is 20kgs .his age is now 4. 3yrs. This is also on rhe higher side but still he has became much more active thn what he used to be..