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The term means a condition where there is an excess amount of fat in the body. Most medical practitioners use body mass index for age to measure obesity. Obesity is now a widespread problem affecting children all over the world. The numbers are expected to rise and it will be one of the greatest challenges in the near future.
Obesity has adverse effects on a child's life .it exposes the child to many health problems and it also creates social and emotional problems (Bessesen 45).Children with obesity are more likely to be obese still in adulthood and this exposes them to more health risks such as heart problems and stroke. Parents can help their children to prevent weight gain if they are already overweight. Some of the things that a parent can do are:
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Breastfeeding the infant for the first six months and introduce solid foods later can help prevent obesity. During the early childhood, children should be given healthy foods and low fat snacks. They should be encouraged to take part in physical activities and limit the time they are watching television. Parents should also teach older children how to select nutritious, healthy foods and to undertake health exercises. The time for watching television and playing video games should also be kept at a minimum. Snacks and taking meals when watching TV or playing video games should be discouraged (Peter 493).
Causes of obesity
Children who often eat more calories become obese over the time. However there are other factors that can lead to obesity. They include:
a. Genetic factors; obesity tends to occur in families. A child who has an obese brother, sister or a parent is likely to be obese. But genetics alone do not cause obesity, it will happen when the child consumes excess calories than he uses.
b. Eating habits; children have shifted their eating habits from healthy foods such as fruits, whole meals and vegetables to snacks, processed foods, sugary drinks and fast foods. These kinds of foods are normally high in calories and fats and are low on other important nutrients. These habits are also associated with eating when not hungry or eating while watching television.
c. Social and economic status; family with low income and parents who are not working are linked with higher calorie intakes for activity level.
d. Lack of physical activity; watching TV, playing video games leads to an inactive life style. This not uses very little energy but it also encourages eating of snacks. Fear of children getting injured can also prevent children from engaging in active physical activities.
e. Some medical conditions are known to cause obesity. Examples are hormonal and some chemical imbalances. Some medications can also cause obesity by changing how body metabolizes food or store fat (Dubois 78).
Treatment of obesity in children
Parents should be in the fore front to help the child to attain and maintain a healthy body. Doctors and other health care professionals can help but since the parents have the most control over their children habits and activities, they are in the best position to make changes in their obese children. One of the best things a parent can do to his obese child is to be supportive. Your child should know that you support him/her at whatever weight. You should your child and never criticize him/her. You should be concerned about your child's concern about social life and appearance.
Losing weight is not a common goal in any obese child. The goal is normally to slow down or stop the weight gain. The target is to let the obese child to grow into his/her body weight slowly, over the time. This may take a longer time depending on the child's weight, age and rate of growth. For the plan to succeed there has to be long term changes in the whole family. The child should never be singled out. Brothers, sisters and parents stand to gain from a now healthier lifestyle. The child will learn from his/her seniors' examples of healthy eating (Farooqi 89)
The strong points in a weight control plan are diet management and physical activity. The sooner a plan is implemented, the better. It is easier to change children than to change adults. Physical activity is very important. It is a good to restrict the amount of time your children spend watching television or playing video games. These habits burn very few calories and encourage a lot of eating. You should encourage your children to engage in physical activities that will use calories and involve different muscles. The activities might include swimming, running, riding bicycle, skating among other games.
The best activities will increase the heart beat a little and cause sweating. Take care so that your child does not to become overheated, exhausted or short of breath. A parent should allow the child to try different activities and identify those that are interesting to him/her. The child should do a continuous a little strenuous exercise for at least half an hour every day. The parent should be a role model. If the children see their parent active, they are likely to copy their parents. Plan family activities that will be fun and that every member can participate. Children should be encouraged to participate in school activities and also in the community (Hopson 36).
Diet management is another key factor. First you should know your children's' nutritional requirements. If you are not sure on selecting healthy food, enquire from your health care professional. It is good to involve your children in food buying and cooking. Let your children choose what they want to eat and how much they want to eat. Provide a variety of food to your children because all foods provide special nutrients. Learn how to serve appropriate portions of foods. Teach your children to eat slowly as this will help them realize when they are full. If possible, a family should eat together. Don't rule out snacks as planned snacks contribute a healthy diet for them. A parent should avoid having too many foods which are high in calories. Don't avoid your children from eating occasional snacks at social events or parties.
Meal and snack recommendations
Most of the food should include fruits, whole meal and vegetables. Serve a variety of vegetables, fresh fruits and pasta, rice and whole grain bread. Drink low fat milk or non dairy products daily. You should also eat meat and beans group of foods. This can include poultry, lean meat, nuts and eggs. Remove all fats from meat and skin from poultry and avoid fried foods. Choose low fat snacks like fruits, low fat yogurt, pumpkin or sun flower seeds, nuts, crackers, rice cakes, whole meal breads and frozen desserts. Select snacks for your children carefully.