Child health, childhood obesity, junk food, Obesity, Social Relations, Uncategorized

Schools and their Role in Childhood Obesity

We live in a world steeped in competition, and this is something that affects children the most. Academics are more competitive today than ever. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on children to perform at the best of their capabilities, continuously. This pressure often works inadvertently pushes children to compensate by emotional eating.

School is a place where children learn habits and lessons they continue to employ through most of their lives. Unfortunately, many schools in India, continue with practices that only go to encourage the epidemic that is childhood obesity. From serving processed and high calorie foods in the canteen to limiting sporting activities in favour of more emphasis on academics, there are a number of ways in which schools are falling short in the fight against childhood obesity.

Here’s where schools fall short, and how they can do more in the fight against obesity:

Awareness and Acknowledgement

The Problem: A child’s weight and health statistics are not something schools today are measuring, monitoring for improvement or maintenance and linking with the child’s overall well being. Schools have decided to dedicate themselves to academic performances as opposed to a more holistic well being score.

The Solution: Schools need to have a clearly defined physical well-being program for their students which includes the child’s growth statistics and their physical activity levels to help the children and their parents understand where their children stand and help them understand the need and levels of change in their dietary and physical routine.

Sports

The Problem: Play time is one of the most eagerly awaited part of the day at school for most kids. Most urban schools, however, often face a serious dearth of space for kids to play their hearts out. Moreover, with an increased emphasis on academic achievements, sports has taken a backseat and often is the 1st activity to be dropped for increased study time. The lack of an organised sporting structure in schools is  a big disadvantage to a child developing a habit of regular physical activity.

The Solution: Schools have initiated tie-ups with sports academies to help encourage their students to inculcate the habit of regular physical activity. Dedicated allotment of time for sports every week, while already practiced at schools, is something that is more important today than ever before. Regular exercise, physical training and sports should be made mandatory for all children in school.

Counselling 

The Problem: Overweight children often face ridicule, bullying and stigma from their peers. At times like these, if there is a lack of a support system around the child, the problem can only go from bad to worse. The child needs to be encouraged, helped and counselled in the best possible way to counter the negativity he or she is facing.

The Solution: Every school should have a counsellor at hand to help children who are facing such difficulties. The children should be encouraged to approach the counsellor whenever they are faced with bullying, stigma or body shaming. Proper guidance and support from school can help build a child’s self-esteem and make them more confident about beating the condition they are faced with.

Healthy Diet

The Problem: Most schools have their cafeterias serving processed and high calorie foods. The rich food in association with the fact that most kids do not spend enough time on outdoor activities and sports, becomes one of the leading causes of childhood obesity. Schools should educate children about the necessity to incorporate a healthy diet in their routines and provide them with similar dietary options.

The Solution: Most schools provide children some or the other form of food. It is important that these food items are healthy and not processed. It is also just as essential for school authorities to teach students the importance of limiting their intake of high calorie and processed food items in favour of healthier and nutritive items.

BMI, Child health, childhood obesity, junk food, Obesity, Social Relations, Uncategorized

Childhood Obesity and Social Acceptance

Obesity has become a stigma, and there is nothing new about it. While there may have risen many groups of people who are working to defend so many marginalized groups, obesity, however, remains woefully undefended. India is home to the second highest number of overweight children in the world, second only to China. From being bullied at school to being commented upon at home, there are a number of ways that obese children are discriminated against.

What is “Weight Stigma”?

The negative and often unfair beliefs of a society regarding overweight individuals is referred to as weight stigma. It can often be seen in the form of mockery, teasing, bullying or even derogatory language. This can even result in physical stigma and discrimination. Obese children often face a lot of these problems in school and on playgrounds. Society has a set notion of how one should look, anything that is even the slightest bit different from the norm is perceived as weird. These barriers that society sets up often fuel the stigma that comes to be associated with obesity.

This stigma often manifests in many different ways, it can be physical, emotional, verbal or even simply related to buying certain products. The subtle discrimination can leave some lasting scars on the mind of young children.

Instances of Social Stigma for Obese Children

Overweight children with normal weight siblings or cousins often find it difficult to adjust. Things get even worse when there is teasing and genial bullying at home. Children who feel that teasing and bullying them about their weight is par for the course often manifest symptoms of low self-esteem and even depression. It is important to sensitize children about the harm they are causing when they bully and tease someone regarding their weight.

Things can get really out of hand at school. The playground is one of the meanest places for a child to be in especially when they are overweight. In some cases even teachers are not exempt from this behaviour. It is important for both teachers and fellow students to understand that teasing someone for their weight is one of the lowest things possible. It not only hurts the child being teased, it can also set them up for long-term psychological issues.

Consequences of Social Discrimination

Children who are discriminated against because of their weight often fall prey to serious psychological issues. From anxiety to depression, they face a number of problems simply because society decided that they don’t look the way they are supposed to. Young children when exposed to this behaviour for long often internalize these markers and come to believe this to be normal. This is exactly why many overweight children often laugh along with the jokes being cracked on their weight. This normalization is one of the worst things that can happen and it leads to an ingrained sense of a lack of self-worth.

This stigma can lead to a vicious cycle of emotional eating and further weight gain in children. In extreme cases, fat shaming has also led to suicides around the world.

As parents of overweight children it is important we help them build their self confidence and help break the vicious cycle of stress eating due to social discrimination. Building healthy habits as a family and losing weight the right way  and becoming healthy can help your child change themselves and gain confidence in their ability to change for the better.

BMI, Child health, childhood obesity, junk food, Obesity, Social Relations, Uncategorized

How Instant Gratification Affects Childhood Obesity

Parents often consider it a minor indulgence to provide their children the cookie they demand or that second piece of cake they are hankering for. Studies, however, show that this could very well be contributing to undermine your child’s impulse control abilities. Schachter’s theory states that individuals prone to obesity have a compromised capacity of self-regulation. These individuals have a heightened sensitivity to external cues, especially those that inspire the desire to eat. Impulsiveness, or lack of control can play a big role in weight gain among children and adults alike.

Impulse control is one of the biggest issues faced by children today. Developing countries like India, where parents have seen days of limited means, often see children being spoiled. The ability to give your child what they want when they want it is often something that can lead to undermining a child’s impulse control abilities. These are factors which if not controlled during childhood can lead to some serious problems in adulthood.

A study by Pennsylvania State University found that children with higher self-regulation showed a lower BMI than kids who had a relatively lower level of impulse control. On an average, boys usually show more problems with self-regulation and impulse control than girls, however, this cannot be generalized. This points to the fact that improving self-regulating capabilities in children is crucial to helping a child handle their weight and grow fitter. Moreover, gratification control is something that can hold a child in good stead as they grow older in more ways than just weight management.

A Slippery Slope

We live in a society that is ordained to providing instant gratification. We do not wait anymore for things, every solution has to be instantaneous or it isn’t a probably solution. This is a trait that is seen most emphasised in children. The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, conducted by Stanford professor Walter Mischel in 1960s and 70s offered great insights into this. The professor put two marshmallows in front of the children and said that they could have one marshmallow now, or two provided they waited for fifteen minutes. Years later, the children who delayed the gratification of eating one marshmallow immediately and waited for 2 after fifteen minutes exhibited a variety of positive traits.

Instant gratification is something that can best be managed and mitigated at home. Providing children the space and scope to understand that when long term benefits of something far outweigh the short term gains of something else go for the latter.

Ways to Manage Impulse

Reward Self-Control – Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to ensure that the child learns what is good for them. Reward a child for exercising restraint and self-control. Do not disappoint a child when he or she can control their impulse, the lack of a reward can only work to reinforce their need for immediate gratification.

Let Them Talk to Themselves – Self-talk is a great way for a child to understand issues and helps them build self-control. It is essentially a means of giving the child’s inner voice a space to express itself.

Games of Control – Simple games that encourage self-control are of great importance when it comes to helping your child improve upon the need for immediate gratification. Games like ‘Freeze’, ‘Simon Says’, are just a couple that can help improve impulse control.

Help Them Plan – Teaching children the benefit of planning and giving them the means to do so is crucial to help them grow into strong, in-control individuals. Planning also helps children understand the drawbacks of acting impulsively and shows them the benefits of impulse control.