Wednesday, 12 December 2012

[] How does obesity affect children?


What promotes obesity? 
Apart from hereditary and genetic factors, television commercials promoting unhealthy foods and eating habits is a plausible promoter of childhood obesity. Television, the powerful medium that it is, makes a great impact on children's minds. Programmes watched by children are made appealing with advertisements which can cause changes in their behavioural and eating patterns. 
The most common causes of obesity in children, as with any other age group, include eating junk food and drinking sweetened beverages and snacking between meals on high-fat, high-sugar food (chips, chocolates, pizzas, burgers, cakes, pastries, etc.). The zeal with which such food is advertised on television is astounding. More than 20 hours of television a week, growing interest in video games, mobile games and the internet just add on to the problem. 
Demands for highly-advertised food products are heavy on the pocket and the weight issues caused by junk food are reasons parents need to start worrying about.
Lack of physical activity is another major reason why child obesity is rising at an alarming pace in India. Children need to do activities that require physical effort, to increase their metabolism and have a healthier lifestyle.
Modern schools these days lack sufficient play space, depriving children of opportunities to participate in sports and physical activities which are essential for their healthy growth and development. Although recreational activities such as drawing, painting, indoor gaming, cultural programs and other participatory events are organized, most of these activities are sedentary and cannot replace the benefits of physical exercise. Lack of play grounds and parks in the neighbourhood, too, leaves children no choice, but to sit glued to the televisions or play computer games. Gone, perhaps, are the days when mothers used to tell children to go out and play in the park. 
How does obesity affect kids?
Obese children are at risk of facing many problems during the paediatric age itself. In some cases, it can translate into obesity in adulthood. Unless successful weight loss strategies are adopted, obese children can become victims of conditions such as hypertension, heart diseases, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, sleep disorders and even behavioural problems. Unlikely as it may sound, the truth is that children, too, are prone to such dreaded diseases. Hence, it is crucial to be within the healthy weight range even during childhood.
The problem is not merely physical. Obese children are often labelled as lazy and unintelligent. They grow up with low self-esteem and may be ridiculed and not accepted by their peer group. 
In the current scenario, when it's a challenge to maintain good health, parents need to understand and be aware of the overall impact of obesity on their children. To safeguard their future health, it's very important to take control of the situation at the family level itself.
Encouraging healthy habits among children
  • Eat together as a family and make children aware of the nutritional value of what they eat.
  • Try to make food colourful and attractive so that they enjoy selecting healthy food. Colourful fruits attract children's eyes and tempt them to eat. Keep healthy snacks on the dining table so that they are readily available to them.
  • Understand their food preferences and pack their lunch at home so that they don't eat food outside.
  • Don't allow children to watch too much TV or play video games for hours. Instead, encourage playing sports with friends outside and in school.
  • Instead of buying fast food at stores, choose to cook healthy food at home. Try to involve children in cooking, they will enjoy it. Doing so also gives you an opportunity to educate them on healthy eating habits.
  • Teach them about the calorie values in junk food and help them to avoid it.
Making necessary changes in the environment and encouraging exercise; discouraging sedentary lifestyles, excessive use of internet and video games; taking control of their nutritional requirements, and discouraging unhealthy eating of junk and processed foods will help combat the growing problem of childhood obesity. While it may initially be hard to change habits, the problem needs to be nipped in the bud. It's never too early to start healthy eating.
Best Regards
Prakash Nair

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