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Childhood Obesity: How Parents Can Help

Dr Nandakishore Dukkipati

Things to do
  • Keep healthier foods in the house, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy foods, so children begin to consider it “the norm”.
  • Encourage moderation of portion sizes and set limits on how much high fat and high sugar foods are eaten each day.
  • Teach moderation and limit fast food meals to no more than a couple of times a month.
  • Limit television and video time to no more than two hours a day and encourage activities like bike riding, playing outdoors and participating in sports. One can also start programs at home such as “No TV week” and encourage children to participate. Use the additional time created to play sports and interactive games. Advertisements on food products have a significant impact on what your kids prefer to eat.
Action and reaction: Remember, your actions can help your child develop healthy eating and exercise habits that will last a lifetime.

Force feeding: Watch for your child’s internal hunger cues, and listen when he says, “I’m full“. Being part of the “clean plate club” may not send the right message. Focus on “5-A-Day” for fruits and vegetables and“3-A-Day” for milk.

Liquid calories: Watch the extra calories in drinks. Discourage soda and sugared beverages. Dilute juices with water.

Children are still growing, which works much to their advantage since it’s possible for them to “grow into” their weight. As they grow in height, their weight may “decrease” in percentiles according to growth charts. Hence, weight maintenance to an overweight child is as important as weight loss is to an overweight adult.
Professional help
  • Physical education – Place children in a structured exercise or sports activity.
  • Dietary modification – with a Nutritionist who can customize the diet in terms of quality and quantity.
  • Psychological evaluation – to rule out any eating disorders or underlying depression.
  • Medical therapeutics – Usage of medications to reduce fat absorption or to reduce appetite.
  • Surgical intervention – when conservative measures fail or, if the child develops obesity associated conditions such as hypertention, diabetes etc. When such interventions are sought, a reversible procedure such as a Gastric Band procedure is better recommended. BMI can be calculated from several sources on the internet. BMI more than 25 should be monitored closely with conservative weightloss measures and above 32 with associated conditions may be considered for surgery. BMI more than 37 will definitely benefit from weight loss procedures.

Children tend to be very sensitive to their overweight problem. They tend to fall an easy prey to insensitive remarks from their peers. This issue must be approached in a very gentle and personal manner. This will avoid permanent emotional scarring in such kids. Let’s protect our children from obesity. They are our contributions to society, and, we will be identified though their success stories in future.

Dr Nandakishore Dukkipati is Consultant – Advanced Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgery, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad
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  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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