Are Indian parents responsible for obesity in children?

“According to a study conducted by All India Institute of Medical Science found that 17 percent of children belonging to the age group 14 to 17 were either overweight or obese.”

In India, especially the Northern part, a five-year-old kid is considered healthy only if he is fat and chubby. The main reason being easy access to junk food and highly-sweetened beverages which are heavily advertised and promoted in various media channels. 

French fries causing obesity in children

The consumption of these mouth-watering appetizers contributes to not only health complications during childhood but also in the later stage of life. The age above 30 years has become a dangerous one because of the effects of childhood obesity becoming visible around this age group. 

Are really parents responsible?

Obesity in children is often believed to be due to the parents. But is that true? A rationale that can be used to answer this pertaining question is yes. It is because of extreme coddling by parents in a society like India till they are married. In Indian society, wards are smothered with affection in terms of feeding them their favorite snacks or desserts. 

These food items are actually slow-poisons presented in a way to look appetizing and delicious. These foods put your child at the risk of various serious physical ailments when they 30. Not only physical ailments, but the emotional aspect of your child is also negatively impacted. 

If you are feeling helpless while watching your children struggle with the weight then it’s time you get up and do something. This article will be able to put some light on the topic and help you with some tips to do in case you are a parent of an unhealthily “healthy” child. 

What to expect from this article-

  • Interesting facts and statistics about obesity in children
  • Factors that contribute to childhood obesity
  • Complications likely to develop 
  • Tips you can follow 

Statistics on increased childhood obesity

 Our food habits have changed. With the entry of foreign fast-food chains, we prefer a club-sandwich over a handful of nuts. Some facts to look out for-

data on childhood obesity

  • 68.4 percent of mothers of school-going students are obese
  • According to a study, India ranks second in the highest number of obese children in the world with the figure rounding up to a figure of 14.4 million cases.
  • By 2025, the figure is supposed to reach by 17.3 million

It is quite evident that the incidence of childhood obesity is seeing a steep increase for the last couple of years.

Causes of obesity in children

According to the WHO, the energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. The imbalance can be due to various factors which can be categorized into any of the following-  

  • Genetic- A child is likely to follow the suit of obesity if the members of the family to which he or she belongs are also obese. This idea is actually debatable. There is no scientific evidence of the aforementioned fact. One justification could be that children tend to mimic their elders. Hence, when a kid grows in a family set up where he is exposed to seeing the family members maintaining an unhealthy eating habit, he can imitate the same. 
  • Psychological factors- It may sound absurd but kids dealing with extreme depression, anxiety or stress tend to overeat to deal with the negative emotions. This is known as stress-eating. The food consumed is extra and hence gets stored in the body. 
  • Lifestyle- The shift in diet that has occurred globally has increased the intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients. Frozen foods, salty snacks and canned jars are considered as convenient foods. Due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of recreation time, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization there is a trend towards decreased physical activity levels. 

causes of childhood obesity

Unlike prior times, playing outside is currently associated with sweat, heat, dust and pollution. The future generation’s idea of fun has changed to sitting back at home and play video games with a bag of chips within their arm’s length. 

The dynamics of a family have also changed in the country.  One big joint family has dissolved into several nuclear families. The set-up of each family is such that both the parents are working a major part of the day leaving the child alone to eat meals all by themselves after school time. Half of the time, the child is unaware of what he is munching and gulps down everything unknowingly. In addition to this, working parents are often guilt-stricken that they leave their children all by themselves. Hence, the parents are unable to refuse when the kids put a tantrum on something. 

Medical conditions 

The consumption of unhealthy food or a sedentary lifestyle necessarily not be the reason for obesity in childhood. There can be underlying medical conditions that contribute to the increase in weight in your children. Some of them could be hormonal imbalances such as deficiency of thyroid or growth hormones.

high level of thyroid hormones

There is another condition known as ‘Cushing Syndrome’ in which the body naturally produces some steroids. Children suffering from this syndrome are more susceptible to being obese. Recent research studies indicate that children who are inherently resistant to insulin are at the risk of being obese. Due to the cell’s incapacity to process glucose with the help of insulin, the high glucose content is stored in the body which gets converted into fat. 

Complications faced in 30s

The effects of childhood obesity are not visible in the days of childhood but in the later stages of life, especially once you hit 30! Some of the complications to watch out as you gradually catch up on age are mentioned below.  

  • Cardiovascular disease- Obesity increases the chances of hypertension and imbalances the cholesterol levels. Both of these factors majorly contribute to the instances of heart diseases and cardiac rest.
  • Diabetes- Over 30 million in India are suffering from diabetes. Obese children or even adults are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. This can lead to eye diseases, damage to the nerve or even dysfunction of the kidney. 
  • Sleep apnea- This occurs when there is an excess of fat in your neck making it difficult for you to breath while you are asleep. 
  • Bone problems – The increased weight of the upper half of the body puts pressure on the lower half making the bones stiff and brittle. 

Emotional Effect

Your child’s problem of weight makes him entangled in the web of various emotions also. The social stigma associated with being obese can be as detrimental to the mental health of the child as the physical effects associated with obesity. Lower self-esteem is associated with a obese child rather than his peers who are leaner. Not in all cases, studies show that obese children tend to perform poorly in academics as compared to their thinner classmates. This can be due to his lack of self-confidence related to the shame of his weight. 

The day-to-day life of an obese child is tough. Often bullied by classmates, even adults, their friends avoid them making them socially lonely. It is a common scenario for obese children for their friends to avoid them, calling them names ‘fatty’, ‘fatso’, or getting chosen the last for any group activity. 

obese child sitting alone in the corner

He may feel different and outcasted with so much turmoil to deal with. There can be a constant thought that he doesn’t fit anywhere nor belong to any group. As time flies and this perspective is ingrained in his mind year after year, he may withdraw himself completely and suffer from clinical depression. 

Overweight girls tend to grow as overweight girls. Indian society is obsessed with lean and thin brides. Therefore, when the prospects of marriage are lessened, their anxiety about being single all their life rises. 

What Should Responsible Parents Do-

Just like charity, good and healthy habits begin at home. As mentioned earlier children intimate those activities which their elders indulge in, hence it gets quite crucial that all the family members are on the track of a healthy lifestyle. 

  • Colors play an important role in children’s minds. Serve them food which is rich in natural color. For instance, make a bowl of fruits and veggies by including red (beets, tomatoes), orange (squash, carrots),  yellow (bananas, potatoes), green (lettuce, broccoli). It will be similar to eating a rainbow!

Colorful vegetables

  • Reduce the amount of sugar in forms of candies and desserts you and your child eat. Limit the consumption of fast food, potatoes, low-fat meals, ketchup, pasta sauce, bread, canned fruits, etc. 
  • Avoid trans fats by restricting consumption of bakery items, packed foods, fried foods. Incorporate “good” fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, soy, tofu, flaxseed, Brussel sprouts, kale and spinach. 
  • Do you know why kids prefer to eat junk rather than home-made food? It’s because of the reason that the junk tends to be more appealing to their taste buds. Hence, try using various herbs and spices such as mint, cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg in your daily cooking.
  • Ask your children to relish the food by chewing slowly rather than gulping it down in a hurry!
  • Make a habit of feeding your children at regular intervals. A proper meal should be served regularly between equal periods of time.
  • Don’t abruptly put your children on a diet plan. Instead, you can change from unhealthy to healthy food. Swap that scoop of ice cream with a bowl of nuts and fruits. 

Eating together with the family

  • Eat together as a family. 
  • Cook foods that are high in nutrients and roughage while simultaneously being low in calories. 
  • Children see exercises as punishment. Change that perspective into making exercise looks like fun. Accompany them in exercising such as walking, swimming, biking, dancing, etc.
  • Educating parents on what causes obesity. 
  • Limit your child’s TV watching, gaming and web surfing time. Don’t permit your child to eat in front of the TV. 
  • Reward your child differently by the promising activity of their choice or taking them for outing rather than giving them more time to watch TV. 

Spend as much time as possible with your kids to give them that boost to make some positive changes in their lives. It makes a huge impact on the child’s health when you are aware of each and every detail of their life. Your child might feel angered, stressed, sad, frustrated when they undertake the big journey of losing weight. The option of easing out the feeling by eating comfort foods are no longer possible. Hence, try finding out a healthy alternative to the same. Not giving up until your child reaches the optimal weight is the only option to make their childhood a happy one!

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