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.

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

Health Hazards of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has become a grave problem around the world, especially among developing economies. China and India top the list for obese children and adolescents in the world. This is a problem that has largely been exacerbated because of lifestyle, living conditions and, to a certain extent, genetics.

Increased rates of obesity among children have also made them susceptible to a range of diseases previously unheard of among children and young adults. Excess weight among children can lead to the following health hazards:

Heart Problems

Research shows that up to 70% of overweight children have at least one risk factor for cardio vascular disease, 39% of them have two or more such risk factors. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of arteries, can begin as early as childhood among obese children. This is one of the founding causes of heart issues and is closely linked to increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

High Blood Pressure

Increased blood pressure caused by constricting of arteries has also gotten increasingly common among obese children. This puts a lot of strain on the heart and can cause serious problems to a child who should otherwise be highly physically active.

Type-2 Diabetes

One of the most dreaded lifestyle diseases out there, type-2 diabetes was once considered to be a disease of adults. Not so anymore. This ailment has become more and more common among children and has begun to afflict them earlier than ever before. Children diagnosed with diabetes face a shorter than average life span over and above a host of other problems.

Metabolic Syndrome

One of the most common problems suffered by overweight children is metabolic syndrome. Almost 25 to 40% of children diagnosed with childhood obesity will develop this disease. This ailment sets the stage for even more serious disorders like diabetes and heart issues. This problem can include abnormal lipids, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, among others. This can, however, be well-managed by taking good care of one’s diet and exercising regularly. Reducing weight can, to an extent, reverse this issue.

Liver Issues

Fatty liver often afflicts children who are overweight. Also known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, this disease, when not taken care of, can also lead to cirrhosis.

Social Stigma

Childhood obesity can often be a tough thing to deal with. There comes a lot of social stigma attached with this issue and it can leave a great deal of scars on a young, impressionable mind. We live in a society that hails thinness. In a time like this, for a child to be overweight, can make them feel less likeable. Bullying, low self-esteem, depression, are just a few issues that affect children that are overweight.

Emotional Eating

One of the most vicious cycles an overweight child can fall into is the cycle of emotional eating. A child who feels discriminated against because of their weight can often turn to food as a means to feel better. The child may start seeking emotional comfort in food, so while their parents and doctor are advising them to eat less, they are only looking to add more calories to their diet. This can be best managed by joining a habit transformation program which will focus on helping you and your child change your lives through the science of behaviour change by being supportive, and providing the child the emotional confidence and comfort they need.

Uncategorized

Overcoming Childhood Obesity

Today, nearly 48% of all overweight and obese children under the age of 5, live in Asia. India has the second highest number of obese children in the world, second to China. The prevalence of childhood obesity has doubled since 1980 in over 70 countries. With over 14.4 million children overweight in India alone, and almost 108 million around the world, it is a problem that has taken pandemic proportions.

While a chubby baby is an incredibly cute sight, the transition from chubby to fat can be a gradual one without warning. This transition, however, comes with a host of problems for the child. From serious physical issues like hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthama to serious emotional issues and self-esteem problems.

There are some easy ways, however, to tackle childhood obesity.

Understand that this is something that concerns the entire family.

A child grows overweight or obese primarily because of the lifestyle that has been set by the parents in the house. Expecting the child to lose weight by themselves without the participation and support of the family is a recipe for failure. The child is, in all likelihood, already conscious of their weight and are perhaps subject to jibes and jokes because of their weight. To expect them to be motivated about a huge change all by themselves is going to make the process of getting healthy far harder.

Changing Dietary Patterns

The most important factor in tackling childhood obesity is to turn your child to a healthier eating pattern. Convenient food items like fast food, cookies and biscuits may be easy to get, but are definitely not healthy for your children on a regular basis. Including all the food groups in the daily diet with focus on adding as many fruits and vegetables as you can in their diet. A child’s resistance to eating anything remotely healthy is well-documented. This can be overcome by involving them in the food making process. Children respond positively to providing them with information on the foods that they will eat, and involving them in picking innovative recipes that are both healthy and delicious is sure to have more success.

Another good way to keep them engaged with their healthy meal is to have meals together. This can keep the children interested in the people around them, instead of getting distracted by the television and overeating. Fixed portion sizes also works wonders. Sweetened beverages are a big no-no for any child with a weight issue.

Get Active

While heavy workouts are not something that are advised for kids, it is always a good idea to have them play games outdoors. Get your child interested in a sport, something like swimming or even hopscotch can be a great way for your kid to jumpstart his or her metabolism. Outdoor activities like hiking, playing sports, etc. not only help your child burn calories, they also help strengthen bones and muscles. This is a great way for children to get a full night’s sleep.

Children should be active for at least an hour every day. This does not necessarily have to be an exercise regimen. Find an activity that your child enjoys. It could be dancing, swimming, hiking, or even jumping rope for that matter and ensure that he or she spends at least an hour on it every day.

Be Emotionally Supportive

A difficult problem with overweight kids is the sheer amount of pain they are put through among their peers. Having a strong support system at home can be a great boost for the child. It allows the child to have better self-esteem. Do not ridicule or berate your child in any way, it is important for them to know that you are on their side. Try and be supportive in every way you can. If your child is following a modified diet, be a part of it yourself. If you want to encourage your child to be more active outdoors, set the example for them by doing what you expect them to do. If your child sees you supporting them they will automatically get the confidence they need to beat this pernicious condition.

BMI, Child health, Obesity, Social Relations, Uncategorized

Here’s Why Young India is Growing Obese

Young India is growing obese at an alarming rate. Today, India has the second highest number of over weight and obese children and adolescents and ranks only behind China in this. In 2010 16% of children aged 13 to 18 were considered obese, in 2016 the number more than doubled to 29%. This sort of a spike in the number of overweight children is a huge cause of worry. The condition is so worrisome that the International Diabetes Foundation anticipates India to have almost 123 million cases of diabetes by 2040. 

Here are some very pertinent reasons as to why more and more children in India are growing obese:

Unhealthy Diet Patterns

The average purchasing power of the Indian citizen has risen greatly over the last few decades. This has increased their access to energy and calorie rich food items. Over and above this, the increased prevalence of television in day to day lives has exposed children to targeted advertising which has also altered their tastes greatly. Even school cafeterias are selling processed food and other unhealthy items. The lack of a balanced diet which takes into consideration what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat has been one of the major factors in the booming obesity rates in our country. 

Burden of Competition

Children today are more burdened with expectations than, possibly, at any other time in history. From academics to body image, the child has to face constant scrutiny, not only from the family but also peers. Parents too find their identity in how well their children perform thereby adding to the child’s developing sense of self. Often children resort to eating as a way to make themselves feel better and cope with their low sense of self. The increased academic competition has led to many children simply eliminating sports from their daily routine. This has worked against them in many ways, most importantly, it has led to supporting this epidemic of obesity. 

Lack of Physical Activity

There has been a marked shift in how the young generation partakes of its entertainment. From outdoor sports to video games, the journey has been fraught. Children today do not have to look too far for fun. Be it television or video games, there are little to no avenues for a child to indulge in sports. The growing paucity of sports academies and playgrounds is also a problem which hinders a child from going out and playing the sport they love. Even something as simple as riding a bicycle has become a rare activity among kids today. This lack of physical activity is one of the biggest causes of obesity, especially when coupled with the increased dependency on calorie rich foods. 

Indulgence by Parents 

Parents always believe in giving their child the best of what they can afford. This, however, may not be the wisest course of action when it comes to the child’s health. Giving a child all that he or she wants is not necessarily the best parenting method. As parents, it behooves one to think long-term and understand what would be best for the child going forward. From establishing healthy habits to developing an affinity for physical activity. There are a number of ways in which an indulgent parent can also raise a healthy child. 

Technology

One of the biggest contributors to the sedentary lifestyle of children today is technology. From smartphones to computers to the television, technology has almost taken over a child’s world. Be it studies or entertainment, you will find the child sitting in front of the computer. This has become prevalent to such an extent that many children forego physical activity because of it. The amount of time spent by the child with a gadget has led to significantly lower hours of sleep and poorer quality of sleep. Lack of sleep is another mail cause of weight gain in children. Limiting a child’s access and use of technology is one of the most important things if you believe it is hampering their health. 

All of these reasons are based on habits practiced by the family and can be reversed and transformed into healthy habits which will help the child lose weight and become a healthier and surer version of themselves. 

Child health, Obesity, Uncategorized

Childhood Obesity Is More Common Than You Think

India’s growing status as an economic superpower has brought with it a range of maladies that have caught the populace unawares. The most terrifying of the lot is the increasing obesity rates among children and adolescents today. What starts off as a few extra kilos on a child can very well morph into more dangerous adult diseases like high cholesterol, hypertension as well as cardio vascular issues.

Obesity among children is a worldwide problem. In fact, between 1985 and 1995 the number of overweight 7-15 year olds has doubled. The overall numbers of obese children has found itself tripling over this period. Even developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia find themselves battling this problem.

India Battles the Bulge

Studies have found that over 66% of children in India have abnormal sugar levels. The study conducted by Fortis SRL Labs and SRL Strategic Initiatives found some very disturbing facts. Conducted between 2012 and 2014 and having screened 17,000 children, the study found that over 51% male children had abnormal HbAlc, an indicator of diabetic control. Western India was the worst hit with over 68% children affected, northern India was a close second with almost 65% children with abnormal levels, eastern India clocked in at over 61% while southern India was relatively healthier with almost 55%. These are all relative though. Having a sizable population with high sugar levels is dangerous.

Excess body weight limits the human body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin. This is one of the leading causes of type-2 diabetes among children and teens. Research indicates that growing spending parity has resulted in increased spending on sugar and fat infused foods among urban families. This when coupled with the largely sedentary lifestyle and entertainment choices of children today, this makes for a dangerous combination.

Historically, obesity was rare enough among children in India that a slight plumpness among babies was considered a sign of affluence. Today, however, with changing lifestyles and dietary patterns, plumpness has transcended into obesity.

14.4 Million Obese Children in India

The figures, 14.4 million, puts India as the country with the second highest obesity rates among children in the world. China, which holds the first position, has already begun work to tackle this problem. Closer to home, in India, we are still grappling with perceptions and the basic understanding of a healthy lifestyle. The New England Journal of Medicine that conducted the survey stated that increasing obesity rates among children is nothing short of a health crisis and should be treated as such.

Excess weight among children can be a precursor to a host of diseases and physical ailments. This is over and above the many psychological issues that accompany obesity. Tackling the issue of weight can be difficult, especially among growing children. The key here is to establish healthy habits right at the outset to ensure that the children grow up to be strong and totally in control of their own health.

From establishing a healthy eating routine with a focus on getting nutrition into the child as opposed to calories, to including sports and other physical activities as a part of daily routine, there are a number of ways that excess body weight can be tackled. It takes for the family to help as a unit in transforming their habits and making the child healthy again.