Childhood Obesity is a serious concern for you and your child.
About 14.4 million children in the United States are obese.
This not only affects their physical health but also affects their mental wellbeing and these children are at risk of falling into depression and low self-esteem.
These overweight children may become overweight adults.
Hence, they need proper nutrition and timely treatment so that it does not pose any health risk to the children.
This article discusses the symptoms, causes and prevention of Childhood Obesity.
Keep reading to learn how to cure your child’s obesity in time.
Childhood Obesity Symptoms
A measure of obesity is the Body Mass Index.
It measures the average weight vs the height to calculate the healthy weight for your child at their age.
You divide the weight (kg) by the square of the height(m).
If the value lies in the 85th percentile or more then your child is overweight.
However, if it crosses the 95th percentile then they are obese.
Not all forms of obesity and overweight are visible.
Your child might be gaining extra pounds but their body frame may not be accumulating the fat in more than one place.
It is also possible that the increasing pounds on a weighing machine refer to their height and natural tendency to have a different body frame.
Hence, a doctor can check the BMI to identify if they are at risk of obesity.
Moreover, they will assess their genetics such as the weight-for-height ratio that runs in your family and their own growth.
Furthermore, they will analyze where they lie on growth charts to know if their weight is totally unhealthy.
If you see your child gaining weight rapidly then you should not delay your visit to the doctor.
It could be a sign of an underlying health condition and it could be leading towards health problems as well.
Other than increased pounds, look for these symptoms in your child:
- Fatty tissue in breasts especially for boys
- early or delayed puberty
- irregular periods in girls
- acid reflux
- shortness of breath
- stretch marks on the abdomen
- flat feet
- dislocated hip
- sleep apnea
- low self-esteem and depression
Childhood Obesity Causes
Obesity in children is a mixture of behavioral, environmental and genetic factors.
As well as due to medical conditions and medicines.
Hence, there is no one certain cause of gaining weight.
For instance, having an unhealthy diet is a behavioral factor.
If your child eats low in nutrients and high in calories and fats such as junk food they are susceptible to obesity.
Furthermore, if they eat snacks, candies, sugary drinks and also don’t have any physical activity like exercise, they can gain weight.
Sedentary activities like watching television for too long and using the mobile phone, tablet for video games and streaming content are unhealthy for kids.
This accounts for a lack of exercise leading to an accumulation of weight.
Additionally, socioeconomic factors play a huge role in determining whether you have access to good food and exercise.
For example, people with low income may prefer to eat unhealthy and cheap frozen foods.
Furthermore, they may not have access to parks or playgrounds which would encourage their physical activity.
Also similarly to adults, children also eat more in stressful situations and deal with their problems including boredom.
Stress eating is their reaction to cope up with any psychological factor that is affecting their life and causing them stress.
It could be school-related, family stress, or something to do with parents or themselves.
Another factor related to family is genetics.
If one of the parents is obese, the child is likely to get too.
Though this does not mean that the child will inherently and inevitably gain weight, it is rather preventable.
However, if you are part of a family with unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise, your child is at risk of adopting that too.
Hence, if your family carries the tendency to gain weight because of their unhealthy habits your child may do so.
Lastly, if your child has some medical condition and takes medications regularly then it is likely that those medicines and the disease are making them overweight.
Hypothyroidism and genetic diseases like Prader-Willi are among those health conditions that can cause weight gain.
Additionally, medicines like paroxetine and propranolol increase the risk.
Popularly steroids and anti-depressants contribute to weight gain.
So now that you know the causes, you must be aware of the complications and health risks this unhealthy excessive weight can lead to.
Read that below!
Obesity is not only harmful to adults but to children as well.
Moreover, they are likely to get chronic conditions if they are obese from a very young age.
*High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can lead to high blood pressure.
If children get it young, there is a chance that it will narrow their arteries and accumulate plaque in them.
Hence, this may result in heart conditions or stroke in later life.
Consuming unhealthy food, rich in salt and oil, can easily increase your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) leads to fat deposits in the liver.
Hence, it causes the liver to scar leading to liver damage.
*Pain in Joints
Excess weight causes pressure in the hips, knees and other joints.
This stress contributes the joint stiffness and limits motion.
They may also feel joint pain in the back and knees as well as injuries.
It is likely for obese children to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
The body does not use and metabolize sugar in a proper way leading to diabetes.
This disease can further cause complications and other diseases such as kidney dysfunction and eye disease.
Hence, it is better to reverse it or control it when it is detected.
Extra weight can make it difficult for children to breathe.
They may start panting after a little physical activity.
Obviously, this is not great but what’s worse is that it can also cause asthma.
Not only this it can further cause difficulty while sleeping and lead to sleep apnea where breathing might stop during sleep.
This can also cause snoring as extra weight in the neck blocks airways making it difficult to breathe especially while sleeping.
Childhood Obesity comprises the mental health of your child.
This world is obsessed with fitness and slim figures.
Unfortunately, bullies can pounce on this chance and bully your child.
Make sure that you let them know that this is not their fault but the bullies are in the wrong.
This can hugely affect their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Make sure that their weight does not shatter them.
With everything said, obesity is preventable and treatable.
Let’s look below at how can you prevent it!
Childhood Obesity Prevention
No matter how adverse or terrible it is, obesity is largely preventable and treatable.
That too very easily.
All you need to do is to incorporate some lifestyle changes and hold onto them.
Firstly you should take your child into confidence and ensure them that their situation is not devastating.
Children are more likely to internalize shame and feel underconfident in their bodies.
Moreover, they will also project what you feel. Therefore, if you make them feel shameful for being obese, they will think that way too.
However, if you will make them realize that they are not fat and you all will work on it together then they will consider it normal.
So firstly be careful with how you approach this topic with your child.
Next, start incorporating changes such as :
Lead By Example
Not only are children more likely to internalize what you feel about them, but they also follow what you do.
In fact, toddlers literally learn by copying their parents.
So, if you have some unhealthy food habits then it is natural for them to have them too.
Start with yourself!
Limit sugary foods and drinks in the house.
Your child may resist initially but it is worth it.
Give them and yourself low-fat milk and water during meals.
Moreover, limit junk food and fast food by cooking more.
Try to cook more vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and grains.
Make the dishes interesting enough that your children are excited to eat them.
If they are not interested in the first try, try again. They may like it after you persist and cut down their bad foods.
Also when you will cook, you can encourage your children to cook with you and get some family time amidst healthy eating.
Also, incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
Make it a habit and tell your children to follow suit.
How You Can Help Your Child?
You may lead by example but maybe your lifestyle is already fine but not your child’s.
You can limit their screen time so that they do not end up sitting in one place for hours watching videos and playing video games.
Encourage outdoor activities and register them in a sports club or take them to a playground regularly.
They should get at least an hour of activity a day.
If your child wants to have a snack, do not rush to give them chips and biscuits rather choose a healthy alternative.
These include fruit yogurts, baby carrots, low-fat flavored milk among others.
Also if you give them candies as a reward for good work or behavior replace that with a healthy snack.
You may also want to control their portion size so that they do not overeat.
Give a healthy snack after a healthy meal if they are not satiated.
Furthermore, pay special attention to their sleep.
Inadequate sleep can lead to hormonal imbalance which makes your child more hungry.
Hence, it can increase their appetite and they will over-eat.
Limit their screen time before bed and take their devices an hour before they go to sleep so that they sleep peacefully.
Other options include medications and surgery which your doctor may recommend in extreme cases that pose a health risk to your child.
However, you should first incorporate lifestyle changes even if they will take quite a while to show results.
Childhood Obesity is treatable and preventable.
If you take the right measures at the right time, you can save your child from any guilt or shame.
However, unless you go for surgery, weight loss will take time.
Hence, be patient with your child to achieve the best results.