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

Identifying Childhood Obesity

The world, today, is grappling with a major health crisis. The percentage of overweight and obese children has been on the rise for decades now, and the problem, today, is worse than ever. WHO has termed this issue as an ‘exploding nightmare’.

The problem is even greater for a developing country like India. With a majority of the nation’s population under 35, it becomes more important than ever to nip the issue of obesity before it exacerbates further. Childhood obesity has been identified as a precursor to a number of serious physical ailments. These range from diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and even cancer. There are over 30 identified serious diseases that can be brought on because of obesity.

What is Obesity?

Obesity, or adiposity, is the deposit of excess body fat. Being overweight and obese are two separate issues. The common denominator among them both is the prevalence of excess body weight. Children often retain a certain amount of fat during their pre-teen years which aids their growth during the formative adolescent years. The question whether your child is overweight, obese or having normal weight, however, is something that is best judged by consulting an expert. There are a number of ways to measure if a child is overweight or obese.

How is Obesity Measured?

The most common method of measurement is calculating the BMI, or body mass index. The BMI is calculated using the height and weight of the child. There are also online calculators and tables available for people to calculate the child’s BMI themselves.

There are also a number of field methods, or rough estimates, to ascertain if the child is overweight or obese. These include waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, skinfold thickness, and bioelectrical impedance. These means of measurement are used in a number of clinics, community settings as well as research studies.

Obesity in children is measured in BMI-for-age percentiles. This method calculates your child’s weight category based on their age and BMI. The BMI, however, is calculated on the basis of the child’s weight and height. Children above the 85th percentile are considered to be overweight. Research has found that children who are in the 85th percentile, or higher, continue gaining weight with time, this however, is not true for children at less than the 50th percentile.

Managing the Condition

There are a number of ways that one can manage obesity, especially in growing children. The key towards managing it, however, lies in recalibrating the habits of the child. And this begins with the parents. The child picks up habits from the parents, and having parents that embrace a healthy lifestyle is essential to the child being healthy as well. This is one of the basic support functions that we provide at Skooc.

The key is in identifying the habits that might be promoting obesity. Things like spending too much time on video games or an addiction to sugary drinks and confectionaries, are things that need to be tempered and managed. The key, however, lies in identifying these patterns. Once identified, we work with the parents and the child to help them rework these patterns into healthier versions. Thus leading them towards managing their weight problem in a healthier fashion as opposed to surgical or medical intervention.

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

Here’s Why Childhood Obesity is Ignored in India

If you believe obesity is a problem plaguing only the developed nations, think again. India stands to have the second largest population of obese and overweight children in the world. By 2025 India will have over 17 million obese children and will be second in this category among 184 nations, says the international journal Paediatric Obesity.

Childhood obesity, while still largely prevalent in upper middle class and urban India, has begun to find roots in other segments of the society as well. Research findings state that it is the environment and not necessarily just the socio-economic conditions that encourage obesity and being overweight in children.

The worst part about this, however, is the cavalier attitude of Indians towards obesity. We have been brought up with the idea that having some fat on our bones is a sign of prosperity. This begins right from childhood where children, boys and girls alike, are criticised for being too skinny. Moreover, there is little understanding among nouveau urbane populace about healthy diet, leading to no percolation of sound dietary habits in the children.

There are some strong reasons as to why we in India, ignore obesity:

Our Body Type

Most Indians adhere to the conventional body structure of being small and plump. Owing to a history of deprivation and poverty our bodies have become more prone to hoarding fat. Research has shown Indians to be more prone to obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Many parents believe this to be the natural built of their bodies and accept it instead of working towards being healthier. What we need to understand is that there is a distinct shift in terms of the physical work done by Indians during the agrarian times and now. However our diet still remains carb heavy which is better suited to harder physical work. Monitoring the diet and regular exercise are crucial to ensuring that despite the body type, the child stays healthy.

Sedentary Lifestyle

More and more urban Indian children can be spotted with smart phones. There is an increasing tendency among children today towards spending their time in front of the television or playing video games. This increasingly sedentary behaviour has been one of the biggest culprits in the burgeoning problem of obesity. Physical activity and play is a must for children, at least till their late teens. This is the time when their bodies are being formed and habits inculcated at this time will stand with them all their life.

Focus on Book Learning

There is a high proclivity among urban parents to push their children to spend more time with their study books rather than on the playground. This only goes to exacerbate the problem stated above. It encourages the child to be more sedentary and hampers their natural urge for physical activity. Children should be spending at least 45 minutes on the playground everyday. Playing a sport not only provides opportunities to learn teamwork but also ensures that they are giving their bodies the exercise it needs, which actually has a positive impact of the child’s ability to focus better.

Parental Influences

Children pick up their dietary and lifestyle cues from their parents. Most parents are unmindful of the impact they have on the habits formed by their children. A busy set of parents often cannot spend the time to provide children the well-rounded diet required. This often becomes a habit that stays with the child through the years. If healthy habits need to be inculcated in a child, it needs to start with the parents.

Diet

Indians are often guilty of indulging in a diet heavy on carb and starch. Even if we ignore the increasing proclivity towards junk food, our move towards carb heavy food and high sugar food habits are highly unhealthy. Urban Indians make it a point to eat out regularly. Over and above that, more and more children are exposed to processed food right at their home. It is important that the children are instructed in the importance of a healthy diet and are made to follow it conscientiously.

Indians are guilty of encouraging chubbiness in their children. It is time we wake up to the fact that lean is not necessarily unhealthy. The impetus should be on being healthy instead of trying to adhere to perceived body types.

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

A Brief Understanding of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has rapidly become one of the biggest banes among the youth of developing and developed countries around the world. Paediatric Obesity, an international journal, estimates that by 2025 there will be over 17 million obese children in India. Individuals from the World Health Organisation to the national health advisory boards have pointed out the gravity of this issue.

A research published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research has reported how rapidly this condition has been spreading. Data aggregated between 2001 and 2005 from 52 studies in 16 Indian states showed a rate 16.3 percent of overweight and/or obese children. After 2010, this number was seen to jump to 19.3 percent. The research has also pointed out that overweight children are not merely limited to higher income households but also fall among families with lower income groups as well.

Overweight and Malnourished

The understanding that a chubby child is a healthy child is profoundly misguided. Overweight children too can be malnourished and the blame for this insidious condition falls on the dietary habits and patterns of today. A combined study by the World Health Organisation and the Imperial College London has found that 1 in 50 children in India are obese. While back in 1975 obesity among girls was close to zero in India, the numbers have changed drastically since then.

While the calorific intake of children might have increased over the years, as parents, our ability to identify healthy food has taken a nose dive. A child that is undernourished will find his or her way to obesity much faster through the intake of junk food. Studies have shown that poor nutrition and energy dense food can lead to stunted growth and weight gain among children, adolescents and adults, alike. This results in higher BMI and an increased risk for health complications for a life time.

Eating only energy dense foods like cheese, peanut butter, French fries, cookies, sugar etc. is by no means healthy. These, however, are exactly the kind of food most children prefer. Putting the blame on the children though would be unfair . The onus here lies with the parents. It is the responsibility of the parent understand the food group and nutrition composition of the foods that they feed their child and to inform the child about the importance of healthy food.

The Parent Trap

Childhood obesity has been known as a precursor to a number of non-communicable diseases. There are a number of misconceptions that have given rise to this epidemic. Parents often believe that they can indulge now and then without letting it affect their children. However in the absence of any tracking of what is eaten and how much, the occasional indulgence gradually becomes a part of the regular eating regime. This then becomes a part of the child’s eating habit and their eating preference.

Parents that have no exercise ethic will more often than not find that their children too, do not have one. The child’s calorie intake needs to be monitored on a regular basis and it is important for parents to do the same for themselves. Parents need to be proactive in making sure that their children understand the importance of a healthy diet. The unfortunate thing is that most parents themselves do not know the ideal diet they should eating.

This is exactly the kind of problem we help resolve at Skooc. Right from ensuring that your children are following the best diet for them to helping mould behaviour patterns that will hold their health in good stead, Skooc does it all.

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

Early Symptoms of Childhood Obesity

As the well-known adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Obesity in children has rapidly become one of the biggest dangers to the future generations. If one wants to work towards putting the brakes on this dangerous development the only way forward is to understand the symptoms and causes of it. There are a number of behaviour patterns, habits and other indications that are exhibited by children which can point to them becoming overweight.

Here are a few that you should be on the lookout for:

Familial

Childhood obesity has been found most prevalent in parents, one or both of which are overweight. The Prader-Willi Syndrome is a complex genetic condition, which may result in a child becoming obese, and this could also be hereditary. However, in families, parents pass on their bad habits on to their children thus resulting in an overweight child. Studies show that children with overweight or obese parents are 10 to 12 times more likely to be overweight or obese themselves. Thus, it becomes imperative for parents to strive to be healthier for the sake of their children. It is all about inculcating the right habits, habits that will ensure that one does not become obese or overweight.

 

Sleep Apnea

Poor sleeping patterns have been identified as being one of the biggest symptoms of obesity. Research indicates that over 60% of obese children are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. This conditions reduces the tone of the airway musculature, which causes pauses in the breathing of the child. These pauses can last for up to 10 to 15 seconds. This condition is characterised by snoring and frequent sleep disruption. Repetitive Obstructive Sleep Apnea is an independent risk factor that affects metabolic syndrome and several of its components, like dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular problems.

Difficulty With Sudden Physical Activity

Children are naturally energetic and highly active. Running up a flight of stairs or chasing each other through the house is something that should come naturally to them. However, if you find your child not being able to cope with these sudden physical activities, or faces shortness of breath, or gets tired too easily, there something may be ailing them. Different children carry different amount of body weight about them as they grow. It may not be apparent if they are overweight by simply looking at them. It is ideal that in such a situation you seek out medical help and find out if your child is suffering from weight issues.

Appearance

The most telltale markers of obesity are stretch marks on hips and abdomen. It can cause the formation of dark velvety skin called acanthosis nigricans around the neck and other areas. It can also be a problem when there is a deposit of fatty tissue around the breast area. These are some of the most important physical markers for a child being overweight or obese. These factors do not always manifest but one should always be wary if they do as they could point to serious health hazards.

Panic Eating

If you find that your child always eats under stress take this as a sign of not only a serious mental issues but also that of being overweight. The diet of a child needs to be monitored carefully and they should be not only getting balanced meals but also plenty of exercise. Any unhealthy eating habits, like binge eating or eating when sad or anxious should be carefully examined and treated.

Listlessness

A child that is overweight or dealing with weight problems will often find themselves facing a lack of energy. They will not only be physically inactive but also listless and often depressed. Talk to your child when you see this symptom manifesting and get them medical help at the earliest. These issues may also arise because of external factors like teasing at school or even serious criticism they face at home.

There are a number of ways that you can help manage a child’s weight, and Skooc does just that for your child. Its comprehensive practice of imparting behavioural change has been proven apt in dealing with obesity.

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

Childhood Obesity – A Global Health Crisis

The biggest threat to our children today are the increasing rates of obesity that have afflicted young ones around the world. The World Health Organization has identified it as one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century. As far as statistics go, the International Association for Study of Obesity and the International Obesity Task Force have estimated that over 200 million school children, today, are obese.

Be it children under the age of 5, adolescents or adults, obesity can be a precursor to a variety of diseases and ailments. The effects of obesity are even more acute when one has a history of obesity right from childhood. Obese children are at a greater risk of carrying their overweight tendencies into adulthood. Not only do they have a higher proclivity towards heart diseases and other ailments but also, generally, have a shorter life expectancy.

How to Define Obesity in Children?

The best way to determine if a child is overweight is to measure their Body Mass Index, or BMI. The BMI can be calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. This gets more complicated for children as their BMI depends upon their age and sex. In case of children it is often referred to as BMI-for-age. A child’s body composition varies as they age and differs between boys and girls. Because of this the BMI level in children is relative only to other children.

The percentile range of a child’s weight decides whether or not he or she is obese. If a child’s BMI is less than the 5th percentile they are underweight. Anywhere between the 5th and the 85th percentile could point to a normal weight for the child. Children between the 85th and the 95th percentile are considered overweight while those above the 95th percentile are considered obese.

Factors for Increasing Rates of Obesity

The biggest factor for the widespread increase in overweight and obese children are behavioural factors. There is a fundamental imbalance between the calories children and adolescents are consuming versus the energy they are expending. There has been a global shift in a diet that more energy dense and has a higher quantity of processed and sugar-heavy ingredients than ever before. Not only do these foods have a high quantum of fat and sugars but also have insignificant quantities of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

Overall, even the societal structure has changed and has become more sedentary in nature. The favourite pastime of people now is either watching TV or playing with their phones. Something that was unheard of only a few decades ago. There is a marked drop in physical activities of young children which only goes to exacerbate the side-effects of their improper diet. Genetics also plays an important role here.

Effects of Childhood Obesity

Being overweight during childhood or being obese can have some serious consequences. Right from metabolic syndrome, mental issues, cardiac issues, to respiratory issues, can afflict such an individual. India, faces a double burden. This is over and above a variety of social stigma faced by the children which leads to some serious mental scarring as time goes by. Moreover, it can also be a cause of serious ailments like cancer. Cancer Research UK estimates that, after smoking, obesity is the second largest cause of cancer.

On one hand there is a spurt of overweight and obese children in the developed, urban areas of the country while it is still battling malnourishment in other areas. India and other developed nations that face this problem need arrest it at the earliest. It is for this reason that organisations like Skooc have come into being. There needs to be a conscious shift towards a healthier lifestyle on the part of the parents. It is this that will trickle down into the mentality of children and begin this much needed change.

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.