Causes of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is on the rise and is a serious threat to the health and wellness of children. Kids are considered obese when their BMI is higher than 95% of their peers. At this stage they are not simply overweight but are at a greater risk of developing serious medical problems. This poor childhood health continues in adolescence and adulthood, causing significant damage.  

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Family History

Children having obese family members are more likely to develop obesity. It is associated with a lot of factors and most commonly affects children who eat a lot and have a sedentary lifestyle.

Unhealthy Eating Choices

These days kids have a lot of choices in food, and these choices are not always healthy. Fast food, ready meals, candy, fuzzy drinks and snacks are very high in fats and poor in nutritional value. When kids consume them, they are gulping down empty calories that provide little nutrition but pile on weight. Economic factors play a role as well, healthy and nutritious ingredients are becoming more and more expensive, and sometimes people rely on ready meals due to time constrains.

Inadequate Physical Activity

One of the biggest causes of childhood obesity is lack of physical activity. If the calories consumed are not burnt, they are stored in the form of body fats, resulting in weight gain and obesity. Having an active lifestyle and regular exercise help to maintain a healthy weight, and kids should be encouraged to get active and participate in sports or other healthy activities.

Social and Environmental Factors

In today’s age of instant and excessive access to everything, kids are exposed to a lot of temptations as well. There are endless commercials about food products and it is very easy for children to get and eat unhealthy meals. There are hardly any vending machines offering nutritious snacks. In addition, portion sizes in restaurants are huge and overeating is becoming a habit in most of the children. They are not aware of portion control and are more likely to eat the portion served to them without realizing that they are consuming extra calories.

Screen Time

Children are mostly glued to the screens these days, spending a lot of time watching TV or in front of computers and laptops. These activities burn little or no calories at all, leaving children more prone to develop obesity.

Eating Disorders

Children, especially teens, are at a greater risk of developing eating disorders, making them among the causes of childhood obesity. Kids can start using food as comfort and overeat due to boredom, stress, depression or to cope with other negative emotions. These children need special attention and support.

Lack of Breastfeeding Support

Breastfed children are less likely to become overweight or develop obesity. In the United States, 75% mothers start breastfeeding, but only 13% of them continue to do so at 6 months. Many women drop the practice due to lack of support. Breast feeding must be encouraged and women who want to continue should get full support from their family, friends and community.

What to Do If Your Child Is Obese

Form Healthy Eating Habits

Knowing that lifestyle is among the causes of childhood obesity, parents should encourage their children to have a healthy lifestyle. The first thing to do if your child is obese is to encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes like cooking from scratch rather than heating up a pre-cooked meal can make a huge difference.

Try to cut back unhealthy snacks like crisps, biscuits, chocolates, candy and fizzy drinks. Encourage them to munch on fruit and vegetables and educate them about portion control.People, especially young persons, tend to eat more when having a meal in front of TV, so try to discourage it and limit fizzy and sweet drinks.

Try to increase your child’s physical activities and limit the time they spend as couch potatoes. These physical activities don’t necessarily need to be strictly disciplined exercise regimens. Try to make them fun and enjoyable. Get involved with them in a new hobby or take them out for a walk or hike. If they like any particular sport, encourage them to participate.

Get Family Involvement

Apart from understanding causes of childhood obesity, it is also important to involve the whole family when dealing with this issue. If parents have an active lifestyle, kids are very likely to follow their examples. Activities like picnics or family outings are great to take kids away from sedentary habits and providing them a fun opportunity to be active.

Do keep in mind that weight gain is a very sensitive issue and these obese children can be very vulnerable. It is important that they do not feel singled out.

Medical Options

A healthy diet and regular exercise is generally successful to control weight in kids and medicines are rarely needed to treat obesity. These medicines are associated with many side effects and should only be taken after consulting your doctor. In very rare cases of severe obesity that is not responding to conventional measures, surgery is recommended. These weight loss surgeries are associated with potential complications and are seldom advised for children or young adults.

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