Big deal: Don't confuse obesity in kids with being healthy

India has umpteen cases of kids suffering from the negative consequences of binge eating, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Parents have only now started recognising child obesity as a condition.
Updated on May 19, 2015 05:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySoumya Vajpayee Tiwari, Mumbai

Ankur (name changed on request), a 13-year-old boy, weighed about 90 kg (the ideal body weight for Indians at that age should be 48 kg according to the growth chart). "Recently, while playing cricket, he suffered a blackout, and after examination, he was diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol levels," says Indrayani Pawar, team leader dietician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W).

"The physical and emotional health of an entire generation is at stake," said First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, at the launch of Let's Move!, her programme to create awareness about childhood obesity, in 2010. The initiative completes five years this month. This is one of the many cases in India, of kids suffering from the negative consequences of binge eating, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. However, in India, it's a relatively new problem, and parents have only now started recognising child obesity as a condition. We delve deeper into the problem.

Know the culprit
Today, more and more children are being diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that are associated with obesity. Although its causes are widespread, certain factors are considered major contributors to this epidemic.

* Diet pattern: A perennial desire to have pizzas, burgers and other calorie-rich foods is something common among kids. However, not many know that the increase in caloric intake also decreases the nutrients needed for a healthy diet. Excessive consumption of carbonated drinks and juices contribute to child obesity.

* Environment: The prevalence of television commercials that promote unhealthy eating habits is one of the biggest contributors.

* Lack of physical activity: The availability of technology-driven entertainment options like smartphones and tablets lessen the importance of physical activity.

* Heredity: Experts say that genetics also play a role in obesity. Children with obese parents are more likely to be overweight.

* Family effort: Treating obesity in children is different from tackling the condition for adults. Family members should be ready to adapt to lifestyle as well as behavioural changes. Also, it is important to analyse the child's temperament. If the kid is keen to lose weight, you can start with remedial steps immediately. But if the child is depressed or aggressive, it is important to bring him/her to a stable emotional state before starting the treatment.

* Diet: Visit a dietician and get a detailed diet chart for your kid. Also, talking to an expert will help your child understand the importance of healthy eating. Parents can also get educated about ways to identify healthy foods, and encourage healthy habits like eating smaller bites at a slower pace.

* Physical activity: Exercise is important to stay fit. Activities such as running, swimming or brisk walking can control the increase of fatty tissues in children.

* Behaviour modification: It's necessary to know ways to nourish your body appropriately, and to set realistic weight-management goals. It's also important that the entire family cares about each other's health and eats together.

They did it

*Case 1
At the age of 12, Sonal (4 ft 9 inches) weighed 65 kg. She used to consume burgers and soft drinks at least six times a week. Also, she spent most of her time watching TV and playing video games. Her parents started worrying about her health, as she would never step out of her bedroom. Sonal was gaining weight every month, and she was losing focus on studies.

What made a difference?
* Parents were asked to set a weight goal for her.
* An expert gave her a proper diet chart. Her meals included more homemade food.
* The diet comprised a combination of carbs and proteins, and more vegetables, fruits, milk shakes, homemade juices and nuts.
* The entire family ate together.

Result: Sonal weighed 41 kg after following the above-mentioned routine for nine months.

— Dr Riddhesh Jani, celebrity nutritionist, Sketch clinic

*Case 2
In case of 13-year-old Ankur, the expert found that the staple diet for his family was rice and coconut. He was also very fond of fast food. After consultation with medical experts, his parents decided to help him change his eating and lifestyle pattern.

What made a difference?
* He was taught to control portion sizes and eat healthy foods.
* He concentrated on eating, rather than watching TV, playing video games or reading a book.
* He started eating breakfast regularly.
* He did one-two hours of physical activity every day.

Result: After following a disciplined exercise and diet routine for three months, Chintan lost 15 kg.

— Dr Anil Patil, MBBS and consultant in preventive medicine

*Case 3
An 11-year-old child, Chintan (4 ft 11 inches), had troubled breathing because he was overweight (75 kg). He was addicted to junk food. Since he was the only child, his parents pampered him, providing him the food he desired.

What made a difference?
* He did yoga.
* He cut down on the consumption of sweets, cakes, biscuits, carbonated drinks, chips and burgers.
* He ate fresh fruits, cereals, fibrous food, and drank fresh juices and vegetable soups.

Result: After following a disciplined exercise and diet routine for three months, Chintan lost15 kg.

— Indrayani Pawar, team leader dietician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W)

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