A big fat problem

Posted by Lachmi Deb Roy on Mon, Jan 24, 2011  
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Obesity in kids is becoming an alarming urban problem that can be tackled only by right food habits and regular exercise.

Do you coax your child to take an extra pat of butter on the bread toast at breakfast? Is it because you want your child to look chubby, cute and well fed? Being overweight at a young age appears to be far more destructive to well-being than adding excess pounds later in life.


Children are suffering from major health problems which were earlier confined only to adults- diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. So, why is your chubby baby growing up to be a chubbier pre-teen? One of the main reasons for kids to put on weight is the television. “It becomes easy for parents to feed children in front of the television. As a result, the child, from as early as eight months, gets conditioned to this visual stimulus for eating,” says pediatrician Dr. Shulipi Ghosh. In fact the television has emerged as the living room baby sitter.


Dr.Ghosh, also adds that besides an overdose of television, a luxurious lifestyle, academic pressures, intake of food rich in fats and calories, and very little outdoor activities are beginning to take a toll on teenagers.


“Snacking is no longer supplementary food. It has become the main meal for most urban Indians. This is an alarming and unhealthy trend,” says Jyoti Prasad, chief dietician, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. Dr.Shulipi Ghosh says she sees 15 children every week whose only problem is obesity.


“Ten years ago, childhood obesity was negligible in India,” says Prasad who feels parents are to blame for increased snacking in children. “A burger or pizza has become synonymous with every occasion. It’s used to pacify cranky children, to pamper them and reward them when they stand first in class,” says Ghosh.


The problem is once a wafers fan, always a wafers fan. “Once a child is exposed to fried snacks, it is very difficult to get him to stop,” says Ghosh. The high salt content in fast food is harmful for children. And the cocoa content in chocolates mimics the properties of marijuana.


“In the good old days we used to play cricket and hide-n-seek and running games in the playground. Nowadays the kids have the latest Play Stations and computer games,” says Sunayna Chatterjee, a mother. Urban affluence, inadequate supervision of children (with both partners working), the spurt in eating out and processed food are all contributing to increased obesity.


Daily physical activity improves children's skeletal health. It is important to involve the whole family when treating obesity in children. It has been shown that the long-term effectiveness of a weight control programme is significantly improved when the intervention is directed at the parents as well as the child, rather than aimed at the child alone. Schools today are also banning junk food in the lunch boxes. Mahua Ghosh, teacher of Little Angel’s school, Vizag says, “Habits start very early in life. Good food habit is very important in a kid’s development. So, mothers should only pack nutritious food in the snack boxes.”


“When your kid sees his whole family is eating healthy, he will automatically join in. Cook healthy food emphasizing on whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes for the entire family. Restrict eating out side to once a week,” say Lakshmi Menon, a dietician and a mother of a nine- year –old. So, if you really want to make an investment  for the kid’s future, it is best that you invest in his health.


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