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On The Fitness Track

Obesity in ChildrenAmeya’s parents were shocked. The doctor attributed the plump 12-year-old’s lack of concentration and attentiveness to malnutrition. How could a chubby-looking child from an upper class family be undernourished, they wondered? Obviously Ameya’s parents have mistaken their obese child to be healthy. And obese child usually grows up to become an obese adult.

What are the effects of obesity?

Parents have to remember that a toddler needs a special diet to feed his rapid growth process. Since the development of his brain is largely linked to his nutrition in the first two years of his life. Of course, genetic and hereditary factors play a role, but these are areas where you cannot make a difference. On the other hand, improper nutrition can mar a child’s intelligence and behaviour.

Besides, obesity, wrong dietary habits can have serious effects such as lack of concentration, laziness, absence of attentiveness and motivation. Such children are often anaemic and have a low resistance to diseases since their bodies’ ability to absorb vitamins is quite poor.

What causes obesity?

  • Wrong dietary habits — Most children enjoy in-between snacks such as wafers, farsan, chips, pizzas, chocolates and fizzy drinks. Junk food is either highly sugared or fried and therefore has a high calorie count. Moreover, if it is had just before mealtimes, it reduces the appetite for a meal and leaves little scope for healthy eating.

  • Lack of physical activity — With the emergence of the 24-hour satellite channels on television, most children are glued to it, watching programmes instead of playing outdoorS in the evening. Playing and running in the playgrounds has become a thing of the past. Most kids are unable to burn any calories, which ultimately gets converted to fat.

  • Genetic factors — Research shows that children of obese parents have a tendency to put on weight. Therefore if you stay slim, you can ensure that your child too will stay active and fit.

  • Psychological disorders — Obesity, in some cases, can be attributed to psychosomatic disorders too. Such children tend to eat more than normal and become fat.

    Realise and accept obesity

Realisation of a problem is the first step in solving it. Parents usually oversee the obesity of their children and it slowly gets out of control. If someone tells you that your child is obese, don’t get hassled. Think about it and see what you can do about it.

Obesity can be controlled

Obesity is not incurable. It only needs understanding, determination and consistent efforts on the parents’ part to help the child realise and overcome the problem.

What you can do

  • Encourage physical activity — Your child may resist exercising but it can be introduced to him in different forms which can be enjoyable too. Swimming and cycling are very effective exercises to fight fat. He will learn to swim easily if he has been introduced to it early in life. Parents can group his friends together and encourage them to play outdoor games like basketball, cricket and soccer and thereby build the child’s interpersonal relationships. Parents can also encourage their child to join a gymnasium. Skipping ropes helps reduce weight and increase height.

  • Change your child’s diet — No doubt children love snacks. Include vegetables in every meal and make it an essential for your child to finish his vegetables. This needs implementation right from childhood. Children may be rewarded in some ways when they eat vegetables they don’t like. This can be done in the beginning till the habit of eating that particular vegetable is developed. Encourage intake of raw salads, fresh fruits and sprouts. Make the mid-afternoon snack time enjoyable as well as nutritious by preparing home-made snacks high in nutritional value and low in calories.

  • Limit the intake of white sugar — White sugar is the main culprit behind increased weight among children. Limit your child’s consumption of chocolates, sweets, cakes and various dairy milk products. This will not only keep obesity at bay, it will keep your child away from teeth cavities too.

  • Advertisements on television — Young children with impressionable minds are strongly influenced by the commercials on the television. Advertisements of ice creams, chocolates, chips, wafers, biscuits look very tempting. Make your child understand the advertising gimmicks and explain the poor nutritional value in such foodstuff.

  • Consult a doctor — If your child continues to put on extra weight despite all your precautions, see a doctor. His obesity could be caused by psychological disorders.

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