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Childhood Obesity: Causes and Treatment

A majority of the doctors throughout the world have agreed that the number of obesity cases have increased to a large extent from the past three decades. Another shocking thing told by the doctors is that most of their patients are very young. Number of obese children has almost tripled from the past three decades according to a study report. Almost every doctor agrees that obesity has become a major threat in this decade.

What is child obesity?

Childhood obesity is a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child’s health or wellbeing. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on Body Mass Index (BMI). Center for Disease Control defines obesity as a BMI greater then the 95th percentile. Some definitions also define obesity as the excess weight 20% more than the normal weight or the fat. Because of the change in the lifestyle and unhealthy food habits of the younger generation, obesity rate is increasing at a faster rate. Obesity not only has many adverse effects on the child’s health, it also has a profound effect on the child’s emotional and social issues.

What causes child obesity?

Childhood Obesity

Everyone has their opinion as to why kids these days are larger than in the years past. Some people blame parents for not instilling proper eating habits and others suggest that school are to blame for not teaching healthy food choices. Below you will find some common causes of childhood obesity:

  • Sedentary Lifestyle: High frequency of television viewing, playing games, computer usage, and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
  • Eating Habits: Over-consumption of high-calorie foods, especially calorie-dense soft drinks. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
  • Environment: Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.
  • Genetics: Greater risk of obesity has been found in children of obese and overweight parents.

What can I do about it?

Although you can’t change genetics, you can work to change all of the other risk factors for childhood obesity. By encouraging kids to develop healthy habits and setting a good example themselves, parents can foster healthy lifetime fitness habits in their kids. Here are some suggestions to increase physical activity in your child’s life:

  • Reduce Inactivity: A simple way to increase physical activity is to reduce inactivity. Decrease the amount of screen time to one or two hours per day, which includes time spent on the computer, watching TV, and playing video games. Such limitation will compel children to choose other pastimes, most of which will generate more physical activity.
  • Family Outdoor Time: Walking around the neighborhood or riding bikes with parents at the park can be great exercise for kids. Encouraged by mom and dad’s participation, kids enjoy these family activities and spend quality face time with their parents.
  • Any Structured Activity: Any activity that gets kids active can be a positive force in their lives. Activities like dancing, martial arts, and rock climbing are all great options. The study and practice of these activities allow kids to feel like an expert in that area. Allowing them to feel a mastery of and ownership in their activity builds self-esteem in addition to keeping them active.
  • Yoga: For children battling obesity, Yoga can prove very beneficial. This holistic tradition has been practiced around the world for thousands of years with promising results. The beauty of Yoga is that it treats both the body and the mind; your physical progress is matched by a strong mental make-up enabling you to be more successful.
  • Preschool Exercises: Preschool exercises that help build gross motor skills (large muscles) include swimming, marching, hopping, balancing, pulling or pushing wagons, and throwing and catching soft balls. Classic kids’ games like run to catch the other, hide and seek, etc also help build gross motor skills, as do building and playing with obstacle courses.

According to recent study, there is a steady decline in the diet quality of children and adolescents as they get older. This is one of several factors contributing to the increase in childhood obesity. Even small changes in the diet can make a big difference. Consider the following changes:

  • Control portion size: Know how much food your child need. Start with small servings and let your child ask for more if he or she is still hungry. Keep portion sizes in check to help children maintain their sense of self-regulation and to know when they are hungry and when they are full.
  • Use healthy oil and remove any excess fat: Select healthy oils like olive or canola oil. Drain off visible fat while cooking. You can use paper towels to absorb extra grease from top of the food. Allow soups to chill before reheating and serving so that the fat can be skimmed off the top.
  • Use low-fat substitutes: Use low-fat substitutes whenever you can such as low-fat cheese, salad dressing and skim milk. Use two egg whites instead of one whole egg to significantly reduce the fat and cholesterol content.
  • Avoid sugary drinks: Sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar in the daily diet of children. Sweetened beverages, even fruit juice, are high in calories and don’t necessarily provide nutritional value. Eliminate them at home and replace with water, milk, or real fruit/vegetable juices. Encourage your child to drink lots of water.
  • Avoid frying food: Foods consume a lot of oil during frying which directly deposits in our body. Choose roasting, poaching or stir-frying as frequent cooking methods, and limit frying. Also, instead of deep fried snacks choose healthy snacks like roasted channa, fruits, multi-grain biscuits, etc.
  • Include more vegetables and fruits: Add vegetables and fruits to meals and snacks whenever possible. It is important to include at least 3-4 servings of vegetables in your child’s daily diet. Instead of stuffing your refrigerator and cabinets with junk foods, cookies, chips, chocolates or soft drinks make healthy choices.

Making the changes mentioned above is healthy for everyone, not just for your child. A good nutritional plan along with fitness exercises for children will go a long way in reducing their chances of being overweight.

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