Around one in four 11 to 15 year olds is considered obese. The World Health Organisation describes obesity as a Global Epidemic. Worldwide 155 million school-aged children are obese; in the EU levels of obesity in children are rising by 400,000 per annum.
What causes obesity?
Obesity is mainly due to two simple factors: an unhealthy diet and not doing enough exercise. Todays children spend more time playing with computers, video games and watching TV than actively playing outside in the fresh air. Studies have shown that children can spend up to 4.5 hours per day slumped in front of a screen.
What effects does it have?
Obesity in childhood can be detrimental both to your childs physical and mental health. It also indicates whether a child will be obese in adult life and is linked to many childhood complications ranging from diabetes, coronary heart disease, tiredness, backache, headaches, joint problems and poor sleeping patterns, to problems at school, emotional difficulties and psychological problems such as low self esteem.
How do you know if your child is obese?
In order to determine whether your child's weight is normal, it is best to talk to your paediatrician or practice nurse. Health professionals use a formula called BMI - this stands for Body Mass Index, which takes into account your childs height and weight. The resulting number is compared to a growth chart categorised by age and gender.
If you're worried that your child is overweight, talk to your doctor and ask for help from a dietician. Avoid taking matters into your own hands and starting your child on an aggressive diet. Weight loss takes time and is best handled gradually.
What can I do?
Taking a whole-family approach is the key to keeping children at a healthy weight. Try to establish a healthy eating pattern early in life, which will then work as a foundation as your children develop into adulthood.
Get your children more involved with food. Let them help you plan and prepare healthy meals. Take them along when you go food shopping. Help them understand the basics of a balanced diet and let them take more responsibility for the food they eat.
Easy tips to get you started: