Child health, Obesity

HABITS & their role in Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is one of the most complex and dangerous conditions facing the children of today. There are a number of factors that contribute to this condition. Most of these factors are lifestyle oriented and habits being practiced by the family that contribute heavily to this condition.

Habits are nothing but what we all practice as a matter of routine. Brushing teeth is one of the strong habits most people have. Habits are for the great part something that is passed down from a parent to a child. Hygiene, values, nutrition, sleep discipline and social interactions are all laid down fundamentally by parents or care givers in children. As children grow, external influences on both the children and the parents can cause changes in habits. For example, 20 years back eating out was rare. Now with more disposable income and readily available good food, eating out, in lots of homes is a weekly affair. It is seen as socially acceptable and has replaced some of the earlier practiced social interaction habits.

Children today have a number of factors that push them towards obesity. For a few whose obesity is a genetic condition, the circumstances are different, but for the large majority of overweight and obese children factors like environmental conditions and lifestyle choices play a big role. There are certain habits and patterns that are inculcated in childhood that are pivotal in deciding the health of the child.

Here are certain habits that parents should aim to transform and make strong in their children:

Vegetables and Fruits in Diet

While the economic growth has helped many families grow to a more comfortable, and even luxurious, standard of living, dietary patterns of these families have changed for the worse. There is lower consumption of fruits and vegetables in day to day diet of children. Parents should make it a pattern where the child needs to consume a sizeable portion of fruits and vegetables. Building this into the meal is again a matter of consistent habit creation. Educating the child about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and very importantly eating the same fruits and vegetables as they ask the child to eat fosters a sense of trust and commitment to building the habit.

Eating Breakfast

The king of all meals, having a healthy and filling breakfast is crucial to a child’s diet. This meal helps the child absorb all the nutrients and elements required for him or her. Through the day, as the child grows, plays, and learns, it is important that they are fortified with the essential energy and nutrition. When a child skips breakfast, chances are, they will overeat during lunch or indulge in unhealthy snacks. Skipping breakfast can increase fat retention and may even lead to obesity.

Imbalanced Sleep Cycle

Technology has thrown the sleep cycles of children in a tizzy. Most children are found with a laptop or smartphone come bedtime. The bright blue light of the screens usually make it harder for a child to fall asleep, over and above affecting the eyes. The screen addiction can get out of hand before you know it and needs to be nipped in the bud. Try and control the amount of hours your child spends in front of the screen and provide them creative and energy consuming activities to do through the day.

Parental Habits

It is hard to imagine that a child whose parents do not exercise will be too enthused about working out. Some of the worst habits in an overweight child can often be traced back to their parents. Be it snacking patterns, lack of exercise, or even erratic sleep cycles, children learn everything from their parents in their formative years. Parents should make it a point to break these patterns and inculcate positive habits to set a good example for their children.

Studies have proven that an engaged parenting style is what is most successful when it come to having our children build the right habits. A “do as I do” style of teaching will go a lot further in ensuring your child builds the right habits than a “do as I say” style. Try and make sure that you are doing what you instruct your child to do. If you are asking your child to have breakfast, have breakfast with them. If you want your child to play a sport, play a sport with them, be with them as they play a sport or let them see you play a sport with your friends. Leading with you as an example is the best way to give your child positive reinforcement to beat this condition.

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