Should you be concerned about your child’s chubbiness?
“Chubby children are cute, aren’t they?”
“No worries, your child will lose their baby fat as they grow older!”
“My kids are chubby as they are well-fed!”
In reality, many assume it’s perfectly alright to let your child be chubby or overweight but in reality, the child may be suffering from childhood obesity. Approximately 30 percent of children and adolescents (between the ages of five to 17 years old) are in the overweight and obese category in Malaysia. These extra kilograms can eventually lead to health issues, poor self-esteem and depression.
What causes childhood obesity?
- POOR DIET SELECTION
Fast food outlets at any corner, readily available food delivery services, carbonated drinks, accessible sweet treats junk food and unaware of healthy eating practices.
- LARGE PORTION SIZE OF MEALS
Portion size of meals worldwide are increasing and parents want value for money hence they prefer buying foods that have a large portion size but cheap in price.
- SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE
Large amounts of screen time and gadget use, lack of play time at parks or with other children.
Parents or family members who are obese tend to have children who are obese as they live in the same environment.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
Comfort eating to fight boredom, stress and depression.
- SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS
Parents who have a high income tend to overfeed their children and parents with lower incomes tend to get less nutritious foods which are high in carbohydrates and fats for their children.
Prolonged use of prescription drugs for treatment (anti-depressant, steroids and anxiety Medications) results in weight gain.
Long term effects
Some of the effects children may suffer as they inch into adulthood are:
- Type 2 Diabetes.
- High blood pressure.
- High blood cholesterol.
- Fatty liver.
- Joint pain.
- Breathing difficulties (asthma, sleep apnea).
- Loss of self-esteem that can lead to mental health issues.
Tracking and Monitoring
All one needs to do is download the World Health Organization (WHO) or Centres for Disease Control (CDC) BMI age charts online, print it, and monitor your child’s BMI every month (do take note of the BMI cut-off points that vary for different genders).
A child will always be hungry and instead of giving into their tantrums and buying their favourite snack, offer healthy snacks such as yogurt, fruits, a glass of milk or a sandwich.
- PARENTS ACT AS ROLE MODELS
Spend time cooking, eating healthy food and exercising as a family over the weekend.
- HAVE HEALTHY SNACKS ON HAND
A child will always be hungry. So, instead of giving into their tantrums and buying their favourite snack, offer healthy snacks such as yogurt, fruits, a glass of milk or a sandwich.
- PRACTICE NON-FOOD REWARDS
Avoid using candies, chocolates and sweets when a child behaves well or when they achieve good grades at school. This behavior hardwires them to seek sweet treats when they feel good.
- CHILD TO GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Inadequate sleep results in an increased appetite. Hence, ensure the child gets enough sleep to reduce cravings and hunger pangs.
- REDUCE SCREEN TIME
Less screen time, more of exploring parks and zoos and connecting with nature.
1. National Institute of Health Malaysia. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Key Findings National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019. Link: https://iptk.moh.gov.my/images/technical_report/2020/4_Infographic_ Booklet_NHMS_2019_-_English.pdf
2. New York State. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents. Link: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/resources/obparnts.htm