Childhood obesity has become a major health issue in children’s health. It is one of the most common chronic diseases that don’t just affect children’s physical health but also their self-esteem.
If a child is said to be obese, that generally means that their Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 95% of their peers in the same age group. BMI is a tool that is used to check and survey for potential weight and health-related issues in people.
What are the Causes of Childhood Obesity?
Several factors have led to childhood obesity. General lifestyles of the children, genetics, and family history all have a role in childhood obesity.
An unhealthy diet of fast foods, candies, and carbonated drinks are among the major contributions to children gaining weight.
However, the main cause of childhood obesity is the combination of overeating and lack of physical fitness.
Children who do not participate in physical activities become obese because being active helps in burning excess calories.
Psychological factors such as depression and stress can also cause obesity in some children. Children and teens tend to eat more to cope with these negative emotions.
Today’s environment is also a significant contributor to the high number of young ones with childhood obesity. The prevalence of television shows and advertisements promoting unhealthy foods plays a major role in shaping children’s eating habits.
Health Problems Associated with Childhood Obesity
Children with childhood obesity are at a higher risk of developing health problems than their peers with a healthy weight.
Today, several children are being diagnosed with diabetes, heart diseases, and asthma, which are associated with obesity.
Children who overweight are likely to have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a health condition where your body does not properly metabolize glucose. This will eventually cause eye disease, nerve damage, and kidney dysfunction. However, through a change in diet and lifestyle of the child, the condition may be reversed.
The diet of most children constitutes of foods high in fat and salt. Consistent eating of these foods can cause their cholesterol and blood pressure to be high, which will make your child at risk of heart disease. Two common complications of heart diseases are heart attack and stroke, which are detrimental to your child’s wellbeing.
Childhood obesity is one of the causes of sleeping disorders, like snoring and sleep apnea. This is because the extra weight blocks the airways of the children and teens.
Children may also experience pains in their joint, joint stiffness, and limited movement due to being overweight. To eliminate this pain, in most cases, losing weight is usually the solution.
Best Ways to Cope with Childhood Obesity
Coping with obesity in children differs from how you would deal with it in adults. A key treatment plan is to include the family in a child’s weight management program because they are an integral support system in ensuring the goal is met.
Here are the various ways of coping with childhood obesity;
It is recommended that children have a consultation with a pediatrician or nutritionist specializing in children’s health to change their diet. Apart from working with your family to create a realistic diet for children, pediatricians and nutritionists also help children cope with the emotional load of being overweight.
In some cases, they encourage them to eat in smaller portions and generally give parents vital information on how to include fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Increased Physical Activity
Another way is by increasing the physical activity of children. Physical activity is an important factor in reducing obesity as it breaks down the fatty tissues produced by obesity. Children should participate in at least an hour of physical activity every day.
Limit Children’s Screen Time
Children who spend several hours on television, playing computer games, or on smartphones are more likely to become overweight. It is advisable to substitute their screen time with fun activities with the family. This is not only a great way to bond with your child, but it also reduces snacking and exposure to high-fat foods commercials on television.
Changing the eating habits of children with obesity is essential. With your parental influence, you can teach your child not only to eat fast food but incorporate healthy meals into their diet. Cut back on soft drinks and junks in your home and encourage fruits and vegetable intake.
How to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children
The chances are high that childhood obesity would reduce once children are encouraged to transition to healthy eating. Here are several strategies to explain to your child the necessity of eating healthy.
1) Involve children in planning and preparation of healthy meals. This would help change their food preference and teach them about the nutritional value of these foods.
2) Children are great imitators, so they often copy what they see. Hence, consume only healthy meals around the kids.
3) Discuss with your child the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and how they can make healthy decisions with food.
4) Shop together for healthy food options. While shopping, steer kids away from the junk section and encourage them to pick out fruits and vegetables. Be on the lookout for the fruits they haven’t eaten because children love trying out new things.
5) Do not just focus on counting calories because this can become addictive to children. Instead, emphasize the importance of a balanced diet and portion control.
6) Make a healthier version of their favorite meal. For instance, replace spaghetti and meatballs with zucchini noodles or whole wheat pasta, which is rich in fiber.
7) When children get hungry before mealtime, offer fruit or vegetable instead of soda or chips.
If childhood obesity isn’t reduced and treated in children, the problem will continue to be a serious threat to their health as they grow. These children are not only overweight but are at risk for chronic health conditions, which can be evident in their adult years.
While trying to cope with child obesity, be patient as you make changes in their diet. It takes at least 21 days for a habit to become a lifestyle. Hence, make daily changes and focus on encouraging healthy eating and improving on their physical activities.