Caring for You and Your Family

Look out for child obesity

While genetic factors are the most common causes of childhood obesity, research shows that lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating patterns contribute as much. Today, many children spend less time outdoors playing or making some form of movement, and more time in front of the TV, computer, phone or video game. In addition, people have less time to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals for their families and often go for unhealthy fast foods, all of which are responsible for the rising cases of obesity in young people.

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In a report released in 2014, Kenyatta University researchers showed findings that depicted urban children growing fatter than their counterparts in rural areas, and therefore exposing themselves to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension at an early age.

According to the report, this disparity was because children in rural areas were more physically active than their urban counterparts largely because they engaged more frequently in household chores, walked to school and played more often in open spaces.

Why should parents worry about child obesity?
Parents have an upper hand in influencing their children’s health through diet and hence ought to be wary about the effects of child obesity. These include:

Breathing problems, which make physical activity difficult and may further lead to the development of asthma.

Risk of having sleep apnea, a disorder characterised by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea could result in a heart attack or stroke.

Suffer from self-esteem issues, as the child looks older than their actual age. Increased likelihood of developing serious lifestyle diseases such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.

Likely to have bone and joint problems, as an obese child is likely to strain to carry their body weight.

Reproductive issues in life, as obesity alters the function of the reproductive system and may cause early puberty and irregular menstrual cycles or delayed puberty in boys and their genitals may appear disproportionately small.

Helping an overweight child overcome
To determine if a child is obese, a doctor will calculate your child’s BMI by dividing the weight of the child in kilogrammes by his height in metres. If your child is diagnosed as overweight or obese, you should do the following:

Encourage eating healthy foods in the right quantities, as this is the easiest way to maintain a healthy weight. If your child loves snacking, provide him with healthy alternatives such as fruits.

Ensure your child is engaged in physical activities. Opt for fun activities such as sports including swimming, biking or walking, as these are great ways to lose weight.

Reduce the time your child spends on sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Instead engage him in household chores that will cause him to walk around and get active.

Obesity can easily affect a child’s self esteem, therefore provide him with a loving support system as weight often affects ones confidence levels.

Remember how a child views himself will largely be influenced by how his parents and other family members view him. Never tease an obese child if he is unable to engage in a certain activity because of his weight. Just encourage him to try again.

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