ou used to coo over your child’s chubby cheeks but now that he’s older, you notice he’s become too pudgy for his age. It’s a problem that affects roughly one in 10 children here. Figures from the Ministry of Education put the national obesity rate of students in Singapore at 11 per cent in 2011.
Childhood obesity is no small matter. “It increases a child’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and sleep apnoea,” shares YY Low, a health psychologist who has counselled children with weight issues. “It can also cause psychosocial issues like low self-esteem, which in turn affects their health and quality of life.”
Body Mass Index (BMI) is generally a good yardstick of how much body fat a person has. In children, BMI is age- and genderspecific as the amount of body fat they have changes as they grow older, says YY.
You can easily calculate your child’s BMI online, with his height and weight. Thereafter, you can plot his BMI against the Health Promotion Board’s BMI Percentile charts, which can be found at http://bit.ly/1JGJRVm.
“A child is considered overweight if his weight places him above the 97th percentile on the chart,” notes Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre. Be understanding, encouraging and supportive. “Avoid words and labels that will make him feel conscious about his weight or appearance. Also, be realistic about his weight loss and avoid making comparisons with other children, as this will affect his self-esteem. Ultimately, it is important for your child to maintain a healthy body image, and know that he is unconditionally loved and accepted by you,” says YY.
Don’t decrease your child’s food portions