The Stark Facts About Childhood Obesity

Today’s contributing article is by Dr Jivraj who is member of Kensington Mums and a GP local to the Kensington & Chelsea  area, graduated in 2006 from Imperial College and now specialises in training and education as well as contraception and women’s health. The topic: The Stark Facts About Childhood Obesity is something of interest to all of us.

The World Health Organization (WHO) regards obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges we face this century. The National Child Measurement Program (NCMP) annually measures the height and weight of around one million English school children, arming us with the data that demonstrates the alarming rise in childhood obesity. The latest figures from 2014/2015 illustrates the point; A third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds are were classed as either overweight or obese.

If you are in any doubt at all about whether your child is at a healthy weight, discuss your concerns with your GP. They will be able to check your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and guide you accordingly. Its important to remember that an interpretation of a child’s BMI will be different to an adult’s with different standardized charts.

We are all subject to the same laws of physics. Your weight depends on how much energy is consumed (calories in food and drink) and how much of this energy is then used by your body. If we eat more calories than we burn, our weight will increase. The main reasons for this rise in childhood obesity are two fold – both an increase in sugary drinks and fatty foods, as well as longer periods of inactivity.

In general, rapid weight loss or strict dieting is not recommended for children that are still growing, unless specifically advised by a medical health care professional. If growing children can maintain a stable weight whilst growing taller, their overall health will be improved.

As parents we are important role models for our children, so lifestyle changes that involve the whole family – are not only beneficial but can be fun too. Small gradual changes are more likely to be successful and last into the longer term. The two main lifestyle areas to improve would be in the huge arenas of diet and exercise.

There are many websites offering advice on how to tackle childhood obesity such as the government’s Change4life, set up in 2009. It provides children with fun and healthy recipes to try, how to read food labels, and how to make informed sugar swaps. Check out their healthy eating guide, and perhaps read it through with the children – it might help get them engaged (http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/healthy-eating-tips.aspx)

In terms of physical activity – it is recommended that all children should do at least 60 minutes of it everyday! It does not need to be all in one go – 10 to 15 minute blocks can easily be part of the daily routine. Try to find activities your child enjoys, and simultaneously try to reduce the actives spent sedentary (watching TV, playing computer games) to less than 2 hours a day. Build regular physical activity into your lives in general, for example cycling to school, or scooting to the shops.

Discuss your options with your GP, and think about how your child’s progress can be monitored in a way that delivers plenty of praise and encouragement.

*Contributing Article