Obesity has been termed as Britain’s fastest growing killer, and more and more children are becoming obese, in fact, in 2008, government figures showed that about three in ten children between the ages of two to fifteen years are either overweight or obese. The causes are simply eating too much and not doing enough physical activity to burn off the unnecessary calories, which then become laid down as fat. This situation is also prevalent in the United States. Critical changes in lifestyle, in recent years, where children tend to sit in front of the television, the computer or the games console, rather than playing outside, running, cycling and so on, have led to this epidemic of obesity. The health risks of obesity in children are many and varied and most worrying for parents and medical practitioners alike.
Obesity increases the risk of Type 11 diabetes. In fact, children are now presenting with this disease, something that never happened in Britain in the years after WW2. Other risk factors include the chance of developing certain cancers such as colon, breast, stomach and kidney. There is also the ever-present risk of heart disease and liver disease and the potential for developing high blood pressure and osteoarthritis in later years. One important health risk for children with obesity is depression. Any overweight or obese child will confirm the unhappiness they suffer and the taunts and cruelty other children are likely to practice on them, simply because they are what they are.
Obesity can surely rob a child of a happy, normal childhood, and it is so easy to gloss over that fact. It also leads to a viscous circle of comfort eating when a child feels lonely or excluded because of its size. Having once seen a young girl of 15 die of breathing difficulties and blood disorders due to her obesity, this is a very poignant issue for me. The reality is, that parents can prevent what is mostly an avoidable state of affairs. The parental responsibility is not just to feed, clothe and educate a child, but to ensure its well-being and future.
By showing the way, leading by example, parents can prevent obesity causing health risks to their children. By serving more fresh food and ensuring that the child is more physically active, obesity can be successfully avoided and overcome. It is better for a child to eat some of the food on its plate than to force it to finish it all off, provided that food is healthy and nutritionally sound. What a child eats should be dictated by hunger and not tradition.
Taking children swimming, going cycling with them, allowing them out to play in the park, are ways in which parents can reinforce good habits regarding fitness and physical activity. Yet another way to help prevent obesity is to use rewards that do not include sweets or candies, but which praise a child for its achievements. Parents know what their children enjoy and it does not always mean a trip to McDonald’s or the candy store. With love and care, the health risks of obesity in children can be diminished, so leading them into a happy and healthy adulthood.