Tackling childhood obesity

We all want our kids to be healthy and enjoy life to the full. The key to a healthy lifestyle is a balanced diet and a good relationship with food. However, today’s fast-paced lifestyle sometimes makes these goals difficult to achieve, even for parents with the very best intentions…

Childhood obesity – separating fact from fiction

Weight control and dietary issues have become the modern disorder of the western world. Every day we are faced with images on our TV screens and in our streets of overweight and obese people – and sadly, this applies as much to children as to adults, just at a time when those children should be growing to a pinnacle of physical and mental health.

Often parents are blamed – yet this is a sometimes glib and unmerited answer when those parents may themselves be doing everything they can to fight a losing battle against peer pressure, high budget advertising, fast food outlets and today’s “virtual” lifestyle.

The statistics

Obesity worldwide is rapidly increasing, and was recently described by the World Health Organisation as a ‘global epidemic’, with more than 300 million obese people recorded in the year 2000. In England around 24 million people are now classed as obese and the figures, which have tripled since the 80s, are still rising.

These figures become more relevant as we discover that, for children in the UK aged between 2-15, as surveyed in the National Child Measurement Programme commissioned by the Department of Health, almost one-third (nearly 3 million) are overweight and approximately 1.5 million of these children are actually obese. More detailed figures from primary schools show that the problem accelerates as they get older, pushing many more through into the obese category.

Why does being overweight matter?

Being overweight and, particularly, being obese causes many health problems, both physical and psychological. A short list of physical illnesses associated with weight gain includes:

• Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance,

• Coronary Heart Disease,

• Hypertension (High Blood Pressure),

• Osteoarthritis,

• Some Cancers,

• Mechanical problems such as back pain and foot strain,

• and exacerbation of asthma.

The problem may also be a symptom of pre-existing psychological issues and psychological effects include poor self-esteem, being perceived as unattractive, bullying, depression, disordered eating and bulimia. Some of these illnesses become apparent in childhood while others develop in adulthood.

Is my child obese?

The physical signs are obvious – a child who looks overly large for its height can loosely be called overweight; however, there are usually other factors to assess before confirming that a child is fundamentally overweight. A simple method to discover if a child is ‘technically’ overweight is to use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator. Other telling signs of an overweight child are low self-esteem, poor confidence and a lack of energy, enthusiasm and concentration.

Prevention and management of childhood weight issues

Childhood weight issues need to be addressed as a family unit so that any affected child feels properly supported and not singled out. It is an established fact that some parents and carers are just simply unaware of the appropriate portion sizes for their children and find themselves serving up adults’ portions, too big for their children to properly metabolise.

Make a start by reviewing your family’s eating patterns and then your lifestyle, so you can incorporate methods to change these for everyone, not just the children. For instance; everyone in the household needs to cut down on fatty foods, sweets, fizzy drinks and convenience food. Members of the family should start the day with a nutritious breakfast, and snack on fruit and vegetables in between regular balanced meals throughout the day.

Make sure you build in plenty of physical activity to your weekly routine – ideally containing at least sixty minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Walking, swimming, and bike rides rather than hours spent on electronic games and gadgets.

Government advice as presented by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is that everyone over the age of five should eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and starchy foods. Pictorially this can be shown by the FSA’s “eat well plate”.

Specialist help & guidance

Carolyn Leigh is a registered Weight Aware Practitioner. She holds a BSc degree in Clinical Nutrition. As a registered professional Carolyn will arrange to meet with you and your child to explore & uncover any underlying health issues which are stopping your child from attaining a healthy weight balance. Once diagnosis has concluded, the plan of proposed Treatment will include healthy eating meal planners which are appropriate to the age, size and health of your loved one. Food supplements which provide additional vitamin and mineral support that may benefit your child & their development may also be advised. In real terms meeting Carolyn for just a few sessions may just allow you to make substantial headway towards helping to conquer your child’s obesity and weight issues.

Contact the clinic to make an appointment on 01202 725090.