There is a lot of information about how our children are growing fatter at a rapid rate. In Australia one in five children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese, if the current trend continues it is predicted that in ten years 65% of our young people will be overweight This is incredibly disturbing because it will cause huge health and social problems both on the individual and the community.
Being overweight has a major influence on how young people feel about themselves and how they interact with others. If they are overweight they are more likely to experience low self esteem which will impact on their ability to develop friendships, how competent they are at school, and their willingness or ability to be involved with social or sporting activities.
Obesity as a young person increases the risk of succumbing to a range of adult illnesses at a young age – Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure. eating disorders, bone problems in their feet, liver and breathing problems and enlarged heart. We do not want this for our next generation, it is important to identify this issue and reverse it before children become adults
How has is obesity in children arisen?
Our society and its values have changed over the last 20 years. Adults spend much more time in paid employment. There is intense marketing telling us the value of convenient pre -prepared foods which is usually higher in fats, sugars salts and preservatives. We all eat larger servings leading to portion distortion-over eating! The use of private transport has increased, the culture of sitting at a screen has dramatically increased .There is evidence to say that we interact with a screen whether T.V or commuter and games more than we interact with each other.
To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance how much you eat with how much activity you do, if you do not then your body stores unused energy (calories or kilojoules) as body fat.
The whole family needs to be involved in the changes needed to decrease child obesity as it is the main influence on diet and life style for young people.
Changes need to be consistent and something the whole family can participate in. Attitudes to the planning, preparing and shopping may need to change, make some family fun by involving all members in menu planning, shopping and preparation of the weekly meals. Offer smaller servings, more fruit and veggies, low kilojoules snacks as fruit not bars and biscuits or packaged chips. Ensure a healthy breakfast everyday, limit take away meals. Do not use food as a reward but rather something that energises the body.
Choose a favourite game or outing as rewards not sugary, fatty foods.
Become an active family- walking, bike riding swimming playing games .Children need at least an hour everyday of activity, aim 30 minutes everyday after school for family exercise. Activity energises everybody it changes how you feel; it can make you feel motivated to sustain the changes needed to improve the quality of life and the weight of our children.
There is support and advice, G.Ps other health professionals, schools are all aware of this issue and are ready to help. We need to be bringing up children with health not health issues that will drain them mentally and physically as adults.