Helping kid’s lead healthy lifestyles is a vitally important step towards a lifetime of good health. I have recently been working with two young teenage boys in my role as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Both were extremely inactive, struggling with both physical and mental problems caused by weight issues.
Studies suggest that three times as many children are overweight or obese now than 30 years ago. There are many complications of children being overweight. These children suffer from a range of short-term psychological problems including bullying, segregation and low self-esteem. In addition, there are many long-term physical problems with their heart, bones, hormones and reproductive organs. Worse still are the links to early arrival of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases and the fact that being overweight as a child is a strong forecaster of obesity in adulthood.
Children who are obese struggle with low self-esteem which is made worse when they are subjected to harassment and mockery because of their weight. We all know how cruel other children can be when it comes to another child that does not look the way others do. This can lead to an increased consumption of food to try and lessen the pain. In fact obesity can lead to anxiety and depression. Overweight children often feel as though they are outcasts and cannot find a place where they belong among their peers. They find it harder to make friends because they feel they are different or may not have as much confidence as their thinner counterparts. This sense of solitude increases when they are unable to participate in group activities such as sports because they tire easily or unable to physically perform these tasks.
Way back in 2002 it was estimated that the annual obesity-related costs would be nearly £7 billion for England. Yet despite the warnings we keep seeing a rise in childhood obesity. We know this will have serious long-term implications for public health, but real life solutions seem as far away now as they did back in 2002. Data from the 2008-2009 National Child Measurement Programme indicated 22.8% of children in England were already overweight or obese in their reception year, and 32.6% were overweight or obese by year 6.
At least 20 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight globally in 2005, according to the World Health Organization. The situation is made worse by the fact that overweight children can experience poor health, dental problems, heart problems, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. The percentage of obese and overweight children continues to climb.
Some of the most stated reasons for Children’s obesity are:
Obesity is basically caused by an imbalance between energy input and expenditure.
Many kids are less active nowadays spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console.
Today’s busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to microwave meals, quick and easy is the reality for many people in this day and age.
If parents are overweight, children can often be overweight too. Part of this is due to genes and part is due to the family’s pattern of eating and exercise.
Fast food with its high calorie and high fat super-sized meals are often our children’s first choice for eating. MacDonald’s, Burger King and KFC are conveniently located on our high streets and in our shopping centres enticing families in.
Water is not the first choice of drinking for most children. Drinking a lot of soft drinks and sugary ‘fruit’ drinks are and these have been linked to obesity. There are 40.5 grams of sugar in a 12 oz can of Coke. Forty grams of sugar is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. 10 teaspoons of sugar is the equivalent of 20 sugar cubes.
At School our children buy snacks and soft drinks from vending machines and the tuck shop rather than eat fruit or healthy snacks.
Can anything be done about this?
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example.
It’s vitally important that children learn the habit of healthy eating when they are young. Good eating habits last a lifetime and diet is one of the most important steps towards a lifetime of good health. Eating well makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, increases your child’s chance of doing well at school, and improves concentration and behaviour. Then they have to learn about exercise and how important it is.
As parents, it is our responsibility to show our children how to be healthy. The best thing that parents can do to prevent childhood obesity in the first place is to avoid feeding children unhealthy foods that are high in fat. Parents should also set a good example for their children by emphasising the importance of exercise and physical activity, as opposed to sitting in front of the television or computer screen all day.
Follow these steps to encourage a healthy diet for your child:
Introduce fruit and vegetable into their daily eating plan, aiming for at least five portions a day.
Make it easy for your child to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruit and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks include yogurt, rice cakes and carrot sticks, or wholegrain biscuits and a small portion of cheese.
Serve regular portions of lean meats, skinless white meats, fish and other good sources of protein, such as eggs and nuts.
Choose wholegrain breads and cereals so that your child gets more fibre.
Limit fat intake by avoiding deep-fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting and steaming.
Cut down on fast food, such as chips and takeaways. But don’t completely ban their favourite snacks from your home. Instead, make them occasional foods, so that your child doesn’t feel deprived.
Make sure your child eats only a moderate amount of foods containing sugar.
Cut the amount of salt you use and watch for hidden salt content in food – some processed meals and breakfast cereals are high in salt so double check labels.
Encourage your child to choose water or diluted fruit juice instead of fizzy drinks.
Don’t let your child skip breakfast. Around 10 per cent of children don’t eat breakfast, meaning their diets contain less calcium, iron, fibre and vitamins. Skipping breakfast becomes more common as children get older, so instil good habits early.
Don’t keep in the house crisps, biscuits, chocolates or anything you know is high in sugar and far to tempting for your child
In a world where advertisements for fatty, sugar-laden foods are everywhere and the most popular kids’ activities often involve sitting in front of a screen, helping your children lead a healthy lifestyle is no easy task. As being overweight and obese can create so many problems for young bodies, parents must make it a priority in order to ensure the health of their children, for now and for their future. Your Kids will thank you one day for helping them learn to establish and then maintain a healthy lifestyle.