C is for Consequence
Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, was unheard of in children just a few decades ago, but recently, children as young as 2 are being diagnosed with this unfortunate, albeit preventable, disease. Additionally, according to a 2010 study authored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, obese children are now showing signs of heart disease once only seen in middle-aged adults. Sadly, these are only two of many examples illustrating just how bad childhood obesity has become.
Not only are overweight children more likely to be overweight adults, they’re also more likely to be sick adults. A March 2011 report by the WHO states that childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood. They are more likely to have metabolic disorders such as diabetes and dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol), cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and clogged arteries, and even certain cancers. Lack of physical activity leads to decreased function of their musculoskeletal system (critical at their growing stages), cardiovascular system, and neurological system, as their brain is still developing and being “fine-tuned” during these formative years. It’s important, therefore, to recognize that obesity isn’t just a “fat” problem, but one that affects all systems of your child’s body: breathing difficulties are common, which may further discourage them to exercise. They also have increased risk of fractures, due to poor nutrition (primarily Vitamin D deficiency) causing improper development of strong bones.
Last but not least, we can’t overlook the psychological impact of being overweight. Frequent teasing by other children about being fat isn’t always easy to handle, so if you feel this may be an issue, especially among girls, it’s important to speak to them right away, before they learn the words “anorexia” and “bulimia”.
Don’t go cold-turkey on eating healthy. Instead of eliminating bad foods right away, add good foods first - fruits are a great start, especially if your child has a sweet tooth. As your child learns how to eat healthier, his body will actually crave the more nutritious food, making it easier to remove the bad stuff over time. Next, limit their TV/computer time. Try a game in which the person who can find the most number of hidden coins gets to keep the money to fund their next toy purchase. Disguising playtime is the best way to squeeze in physical activity. Praise them for even the smallest achievements, especially in their beginning stages of change.
Photo by MissMessie from flickr creative commons