India has seen a huge explosion in childhood obesity over the last decade, that the World Health Organisation says is the phenomenon called “an exploding nightmare”. This condition is defined by excessive fat accumulation amongst young children and adolescents. While each child may have his or her own unique body shape, we, in India, don’t tend to think of an overweight or an obese child as something of a worry. A dependable indicator for this condition is usually the Body Mass Index, or BMI. It helps you understand the child’s ideal weight according to their height, age and gender.
Children have different amounts of body fat during the various stages of growth. In India childhood obesity it is not a matter of worry or in certain cases is even looked at in approval, this can, however lead to a misunderstanding if your child is growing obese or is healthy. Children with BMI exceeding the 95th percentile, according to their age and gender and height, are considered obese. This condition, also called pediatric obesity, is usually quickly identifiable and with medical support, it is treatable.
Research has identified that obesity among children is largely prevalent in urban areas, especially in the more well-to-do sections of society. It is widely considered as a lifestyle disease and has a lot to do with the child’s diet and amount of physical activity. In certain conditions, it may have a genetic or hormonal connections.
With children being largely sedentary, be it television or computers or even smartphones, lack of exercise is a strong secondary reason for the been identified as a serious problem. When coupled with the availability of high calorie foods, the problem of childhood obesity is something that becomes even more exacerbated.
Stress at the homestead can also lead to children overeating and consequently increase their chances of being overweight. Stress eating is something that can be sparked off by a multitude of factors, from problems at home to being bullied by peers. Children today and strongly influenced by what they see and hear in the media and are often subjected to being shamed about being overweight or obese. They also find participating in sports difficult because of their body conditions, which in turn leads to their not being a part of a healthy peer group. As they spend time alone, boredom, leads to overeating and thus further compounds their chances of becoming obese.
Studies show there are immediate health concerns as well as risks that continue into adulthood.
As a child or an adolescent, overweight or obese children could suffer from
High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.As Indians, we are at a higher risk of insulin resistance and diabetes and being overweight or obese increases this risk for children by 4 times.Breathing problems like sleep apnea and asthma.Joint problems and musculoskeletal problems. Fatty liver disease, gallstones and gastro-oesophageal reflux or heartburn.
In addition Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.
If children are overweight, they are likely to be overweight or obese as adults and this condition in adulthood is likely to be more severe. Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
The main way to treat a child who is overweight or obese is to look at changes to habits that can be made to their lifestyle and since the family’s lifestyle is what the child follows, habit changes that involve the whole family are most successful. As a parent, you are perhaps the most important role model for your child and you can help them to stay healthy.
The two main lifestyle changes that help reverse being overweight or obese are to eat more healthily and do plenty of physical activity. While this is easily said, both eating habits and activity habits are deeply ingrained across time and changes to them are difficult. So small, gradually paced changes are best. Your child will then be more likely to stick to these new habits in the long term.