Childhood Obesity: The physical and psychological aspects of childhood obesity and how you can help

Obesity in children is a serious medical condition that affects both children and teenagers. It is becoming a huge health concern worldwide as more and more children continue to pack on the weight.

Children have become less active and are spending more time in front of the TV, computers, on their cellphones and tablets or playing video games. There are a number of reasons why this has happened.

Clinical Psychologist, Michele Carelse says, “Life is so busy and hectic nowadays, most families tend to eat less nutritious meals and more fast foods. The portion sizes of take-out and restaurant meals have increased which has definitely contributed to the obesity problem we are now faced with. The marketing of fast foods, sweets, chocolates and energy drinks have increased to tempt children even more – it’s a known fact that advertisers target young children because parents will give in to their requests. Physical education has also been reduced from the school curriculum and as a result children are not getting as much exercise as before”.

Fortunately there are ways of preventing your child from becoming overweight and obese. We look at how childhood obesity can affect your child’s physical and psychological wellbeing and what you can do to control their weight.

Physical aspects of childhood obesity

Obesity in children can cause health complications which can lead to more serious weight problems in adulthood. These health complications include:

  1. Type 2 diabetes

There is an increase in risk of children developing type 2 diabetes even though it is more common in adults. This is usually occurs because of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body secretes insulin, and while not life-threatening, can cause long-term complications as well as organ damage.

While Type 2 diabetes used to be mainly seen in adults, more and more children in the Western World are developing diabetes and many are pre-diabetic, due to their diet and weight issues. These children are also at greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
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  1. High blood pressure and high cholesterol

Children are at risk of cardiovascular disease, developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol or hypertension as a result of eating a poor diet. If high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are not monitored, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

3. Irregular menstrual cycle

Being overweight or obese can affect a regular menstrual cycle and cause hormone imbalances which can lead to the early onset of puberty and interfere with ovulation in later years.

  1. Asthma and other respiratory disorders

Overweight children are more prone to  asthma and other respiratory disorders  than children with a normal weight. This is due to the excess weight that they are carrying around which constricts their breathing.
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  1. Metabolic issues

Metabolic issues can lead to  problems such as excess abdominal fat, gastroesophageal reflux, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and can also increase your child’s risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or other health conditions. 

  1. Sleep disorders

Sleep apnea is another complication of childhood obesity – it causes breathing difficulties when sleeping, snoring, waking up often and not having a good night’s rest. Your child is most likely to feel tired the next day and have difficulty concentrating.
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Psychological aspects of childhood obesity

Obesity in children can cause far-reaching psychological consequences and these include:

  1. Low self-esteem

Being overweight or obese greatly affects how children feel about themselves and often they develop a low self-esteem. A low self-esteem affects how they interact with others, develop friendships and perform at school. Children run the risk of been teased or bullied because of their weight which can also impact on their self-esteem.

  1. Depression

Overweight children may also experience bouts of depression. Having a low self-esteem can cause feelings of unworthiness and self-hatred and a depressed child may then eat more to disguise the pain, lose interest in normal activities, sleep or cry a lot.
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  1. Behaviour issues

Children who are overweight tend to have poor social skills and may have difficulty forming relationships with other kids. They may either be withdrawn and prefer to be one-sided and not interact much while on the other hand, they may act out and be disruptive. They may also avoid sporting activities and playground games, further isolating them from their classmates.

How you can help an overweight child

There are ways that you can help your child maintain a healthy weight and these include:

  1. Get the whole family involved

It is very important for the whole family to be involved in taking the healthy lifestyle approach. Everyone should be on board for weight loss to be a success and this can include eating healthily and exercising regularly as a family. For instance, involve the children when you are preparing dinner, eat meals together as a family or join a gym together (it’s usually free for kids!)

  1. Be a role model

If you are overweight and your child is too, then you are not setting a good example. Children will copy what you do but they are also eager learners.

Start making healthier choices like eating more fruit and veggies, drinking water and cutting out sugary foods. Go walking, running or hiking and include the children so that they start enjoying being active.

  1. Eat healthy, balanced meals

Be more aware of what foods you are preparing and ingredients you are using. Choose lean meat, fresh veggies and fruit, whole grains and legumes when you cook. Avoid oily fry-ups and instead grill or bake veggies, chicken or fish.

Steer clear of convenience foods like microwave meals which are packed with preservatives, sugars and additives. Limit fast foods and eating out at restaurants – reserve it for a special treat like a birthday celebration.
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  1. Limit fizzy drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the leading causes of weight gain. While children are known to love them, try to limit their intake of fizzy drinks as much as you can.

Encourage your kids to drink more water and let them see you enjoying it too. Invest in a juicer and make juicing a fun family activity. Remember that store bought fruit juices are also packed with fructose – a so-called ‘natural’ fruit sugar that is just as harmful as cane sugar.

  1. Monitor screen time

Limit your child’s time in front of the TV, computer, video games and on their cellphone as these sedentary activities encourage laziness.

Get them moving by taking the dog for a walk, playing ball or Frisbee outside.
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  1. Use natural remedies  

It’s not always easy to lose weight as it involves hard work and determination. Sometimes, you may need a helping hand and Feelgood Health has a natural weight loss remedy specially formulated for children.

Use JuniorSlim as part of your child’s weightloss strategy. JuniorSlim is a herbal remedy which promotes a healthy metabolism and helps to support healthy and safe weight loss in children.
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