6 TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD FIGHT OBESITY
It is a testament to the way Indians view fat or weight as a sign of prosperity, that overweight children are fondly referred to as ‘healthy’. Ironically, they are in fact the exact opposite of healthy. An overweight child runs the risk of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and cancer — not really diseases you’d associate with children. But a recent study by the University of Colorado Cancer Centre says these are long-term ill effects of childhood obesity, even if your child does end up losing the weight over time. The study suggests that the earlier a child becomes obese, the earlier these diseases make an appearance in adult life.
Other diseases associated with childhood obesity are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obstructive sleep apnea, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, asthma, orthopaedic complications, and psychiatric disease among others. Ensure that your little one never gets to the stage of obesity. Failing prevention, a speedy cure is the next step.
Studies show that formula fed babies are more likely to become obese by the age of five years than babies who are breastfed. Professor Atul Singhal, from the MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre at University College London and lead researcher points out that fast weight gain in infancy can lead to obesity as an adult. Babies tend to take in more calories when bottle-fed as they can just lie back and drink, as opposed to breastfed babies who have to work harder to suckle. Dr Vaneet Parmar, paediatrician,
Offspring Clinic, Gurgaon, says that, children as young as six months can become overweight and at that stage, it’s difficult to help them shed these extra kilos. What one can do however, is to take note and ensure that as your child grows, a strict check is kept on his or her weight and eating habits.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Teasing, calling the child fatty or motu, or making fun of a tee shirt that looks fit to burst is unnecessary, hurtful and counterproductive. Gouri Dange, family counsellor and author of More ABCs of Parenting says that obese kids have poor selfimage and
such kind of callous teasing leads to a vicious cycle where they compensate for their hurt by overeating. No two bodies are alike, so focusing on being fit and healthy is the goal, not merely reducing weight. It helps if the parents make fitness a part of their daily routine so that children grow up learning the importance of being healthy. Avoid focusing on looks, complexion and weight and discourage family and visitors from commenting on their weight. Under no circumstances should you use
CHILDHOOD OBESITY IS NOW A GROWING PROBLEM IN URBAN INDIA. SMRITI LAMECH TELLS YOU HOW TO ENSURE YOUR CHILD DOESN’T FALL PREY TO THIS NUTRITIONAL DISORDER
celebrities or models to inspire your child or motivate him/her to lose weight. These strategies only lead to poor body image and eating disorders.
MAKE HEALTH A FAMILY AFFAIR
Fighting obesity is not an easy battle and cannot be treated as your child’s problem alone. Denying your child chocolate biscuits or chips while the rest of the family gorges on the same snacks guilt-free, is unfair and will make him resentful. Empty the refrigerator and pantry of all unhealthy food so that there is no temptation for the child. Even if the other family members aren’t overweight, eating healthy will benefit everyone. If friends bring home or offer junk food, Gouri Dange suggests deglamourising it. Create homemade snacks like bhel, nimbu pani, or homemade burgers. Dange points out that an over indulged child is usually the result of a lazy, path-of-least-resistance type of parenting so you might have to shake yourself out of that zone and work with your child.
FOOD IS NOT A REWARD
Food is nourishment. So buying them a burger when they ace a class test, a chocolate for tidying up their rooms, only serves to reinforce food as a prize in their mind. Pick an activity that your child enjoys as a reward instead — play a game together, spend some time doing a craft project or teach them to fly a kite. Not only do fun activities expose children to different ideas, it also ensures that they don’t equate food with rewards. After all, no one offers a child broccoli for sharing their toys. It’s important to understand that such behaviour can become a life- long habit. When children become adults they will continue to reward themselves with junk food after a long day at work or while going through a stressful time.
MAKE TIME FOR ONE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY EVERY WEEK
Modern lifestyles, lack of safe play options, more concrete, longer school hours, a variety of screens, these are just some of the reasons children don’t get to play outdoors. This needs to be mended. If your child isn’t interested in an organised sport, pick something else that involves the outdoors and might pique the child’s interest. Arvind Ashok, fitness coach and co-founder of The Quad, Chennai suggests trying something new like martial arts. Other options are trekking, bird watching, swimming or horse riding. Once your child finds something that holds his interest, you will no longer need to push him to do it.
ADD THE FAT, SUBTRACT THE SUGAR
Avoid pseudo healthy malt drinks. “They contain a lot of sugar and wheat products (main components of all junk food) and in truth are nutritionally poor,” says Ashok. If a child must add something to his milk, let it be fruit and nuts. Make sure your children are eating full cream versions of milk, cheese, paneer and curd. Growing bodies need these essential fats and they will help keep sugar cravings low. Eggs are another complete food that can be used as a snack instead of other popular nibbles that masquerade as healthy food, like oatmeal cookies, packaged cereal, protein bars, juices, sugar free diet versions of drinks and biscuits among others.