As an overweight child and teen myself, I know only too well the impact that being overweight had on my life – the bullying, the names, the not being able to look cool, being embarrassed on the beach or at the swimming pool… and I could go on.
So, What Is Childhood Obesity?
Childhood obesity is a serious health condition and threat to children.
Approximately 10% of reception age children (4-5 yrs) are obese with a further 13% being overweight.
At age 10-11yrs 21% are obese and 14.1% are overweight. This data is gathered as part of the child measurement programme.
Childhood obesity affects every part of the child – and will continue into adulthood if not checked. Children and teens who are overweight or obese can become depressed and have a very low self- worth and low self- esteem. Obesity in teenagers can lead to teen suicide.
What are the causes of childhood obesity?
Lifestyle, family history, psychological factors, and environment all play a part in making a child overweight. Children of parents who are overweight are more likely to be overweight too. However, the main cause of childhood obesity is a combination of eating too much and not exercising enough.
A bad diet containing high levels of sugar and fat and not enough nutritious food can cause children to gain weight extremely quickly. At my two hypnotherapy clinics in London and Berkshire, I treat children for all sorts of eating disorders and even some of the children who have food phobias are overweight, and not just overweight but severely overweight. How? Because the food they are eating is all the beige and white foods like chicken nuggets, chips, bread, pasta, crisps and cakes etc.. They drink squash and soft drinks that are full of sugar, and of course they are rarely phobic about sweets and chocolate!
Some children become obese or very fussy eaters because their parents don’t know how to choose and cook healthy foods. Some people say they cannot afford to buy fresh meat, proteins, vegetables and fruit, yet the money they are spending on the convenience foods and sweets, beer, wine and cigarettes would probably more than cover a healthy food shopping list.
Another cause for childhood obesity is lack of exercise. People of varying ages tend to gain weight if they don’t exercise enough but children should be encouraged to get out and run around, and play!
Children who get bored easily, tend to go to the fridge and find something to eat. If they are depressed, they may eat more to cope with the negative feelings.
Your Child is at High Risk of medical problems if they are over-weight.
Children who are overweight have a higher risk level of developing serious health problems than their peers who remain slim and healthy. Diabetes, Heart disease, Asthma, Bronchial problems, Stress on joints are all among the risks.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t metabolize glucose properly. Diabetes can lead to eye disease, nerve damage, and kidney dysfunction. Children and adults who are overweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. However, the condition may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol raise the risk of future heart disease in obese children. meals that are high in fat and salt may cause cholesterol and blood pressure levels to rise. Heart attack and stroke are two potential complications of heart disease, please don’t think children and teens don’t die from heart attacks and stroked – they do!
Obesity is the most common comorbidity (when two diseases occur in the same person at the same time) with asthma, but researchers aren’t sure exactly how the two conditions are linked. A study found that obesity may be a risk factor for more severe asthma in some, but not all, people with obesity.
Children and teenagers who are obese may also suffer from sleep disorders, such as excessive snoring and sleep apnoea. Having extra weight and fat in the neck area can block their airways.
Your overweight child may also experience joint stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion from carrying excess weight. In many cases, losing weight can eliminate most joint problems.
Healthy Eating for your Obese Child
Parental influence shapes your child’s eating patterns. The majority of children eat what their parents buy, so healthy eating needs to start with you, the parent!
Start your new healthy eating regime by limiting sweets and soft drinks in your home. Even drinks made from 100-percent juice can be high in calories. Instead, serve water and lower-fat or non – fat milk with meals. Cut back your fast- food consumption and make a conscious effort to cook more fresh food. Preparing a meal and eating together is not only healthy in a nutritional sense, but it’s also an excellent way to have some very much needed family time.
Create your meals and snacks around fresh foods instead of processed items, baked foods, or salty snacks. Try:
- Fresh fruits
- Lean proteins
- Chicken and fish
- Whole grains such as brown rice
- whole-wheat pasta
- low-fat dairy products, including skim milk, low-fat plain yogurt,
- low-fat cheese
Restrict desserts and sweet treats to the weekends only!
Your overweight or obese child will probably drop some weight as they transition to a healthier way of eating. Consult your GP if weight loss doesn’t occur. You may need additional help from a nutritionist or dietician.
Increase Physical Activity
Use the word “activity” instead of “exercise” or “workout” to keep them interested. Playing hopscotch outside, for example, may be more appealing to a 7-year-old than jogging around the block. Consider encouraging your child to try a sport for which they’ve expressed an interest. None of us really like going to the gym but if we can find some activity, we actually enjoy it makes a huge difference to your motivation. Your child should be getting at least an hour’s activity every day to stay healthy
Find activities the whole family can enjoy together. This is not only a great way to bond, but it also helps your child learn by example. Walking, swimming, or even playing tag can help your child get active and start on the path to a healthier weight. Be sure to vary activities to prevent boredom.
Cutting down on the Screen Time
Children who spend several hours a day watching television, playing computer games, or using their phones or I pads, or other devices are more likely to be overweight.
What is the future for Childhood Obesity?
Obesity in childhood is a serious issue in the United States and the UK. However, with proper education and support, children can learn healthier ways to cope with their problems, prepare meals, and stay active. This support must come from the adults in their lives: parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Help your children stay healthier for longer by preparing nutritious foods for them and encouraging them to get plenty of exercise.
There are endless forms of research going on in both the UK and the USA, but for now, even if we simply get our children to move more and eat less fat and sugar in their diets this will help a great deal.
At my hypnotherapy clinics I quite often get asked to see children who are struggling with obesity. So, I developed a programme for children from 5 years old up wards. It’s a six- session programme and it helps them to understand about the body and food in a very simple way that they will understand. One lady said:
“I took Joseph to see Elaine as he was getting bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t seem to stop him eating! The doctor also told me that he was at risk of getting some horrid diseases. After a couple of sessions, I noticed he wasn’t having seconds any- more and he was actually asking me to cook vegetables! I couldn’t quite believe it, but he continued, and he actually lost all his excess weight within about three months. He became more interested in outdoor activities, so he got much more exercise. Elaine was quite firm with him, and she told him the consequences of not losing weight, but he didn’t seem to mind as he really liked her, and she made everything a lot of fun! “Julie Marston, Reading.
So, if YOUR child is overweight, or worse – OBESE, and you need some help with giving him motivation and willpower to keep to a healthy diet- do contact: