I went to Disney World a few months ago and I was overwhelmed by the amount of larger of children I saw. We hear it on the news all the time, and it got me thinking about how this weight problem has come about, and what we can do to help. I asked the wonderful Jane Clarke if we could borrow a piece from her book on the subject, and here it is:
Many more children are overweight than was the case a generation ago. If this goes unchecked, they will remain that way as adults, which could mean health problems. To maintain a healthy weight for their height, you can help your child make small but significant changes.
Why are more children becoming overweight?
Many children today lead much less active lives than previous generations, spending more time in front of the computer and TV than playing outside. Eating habits have changed, too. Lots of families have lost the confidence and skill to cook – or simply don’t think they have the time – so they may reach for ready-made meals and takeaways, which can be high in fat, salt, and sugar. Snacking on high-calorie foods has also increased, and that’s down to the huge and tempting array available.
What is a healthy weight?
You may not be sure whether your child is overweight. Health professionals use the BMI (body mass index) to judge whether someone is obese, overweight, underweight, or a healthy weight. The BMI uses the ratio of a person’s weight compared with their height, and takes gender and age into consideration. You can plot your child’s BMI on a chart but it’s easy to miscalculate, so it’s better done by your GP or health visitor. Alternatively, you can use the BMI calculator on a reputable website, such as the NHS, and continue to check it every few months to see whether your child is making progress if they do need to lose weight.
Why does it matter?
Studies have shown that children within the healthy weight range tend to be fitter and more self confident, suffer from fewer illnesses, are better able to learn, and are less likely to be bullied at school. Overweight children who remain overweight as adults risk serious health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.
Time to talk
If your child is starting to gain too much weight, take a moment to look at the reasons why. Is it because he or she is eating the wrong things when they’re not at home, and getting too little exercise? Or could it be that something has changed at home or school that is causing them to comfort eat because they’re feeling upset? Try to talk to them about it so that you can work things through together.
Lead by example
Maybe you are serving takeaways and ready-meals more than you used to, or you may have become more sedentary. Think about any such habits that have crept into your own routine and cut them out, so that you can get back on track together. Try to take exercise as a family, making it enjoyable for all.
By Jane Clarke, author of Family Nutrition