If you're a parent, then you may be familiar with the monthly trips to the district health clinic, especially in your child’s formative years. On my last visit with my kids, as is the norm on every visit, the district nurse checks each infant’s height and weight and records the information on a chart.
While there, I could not help but notice how many children were a bit more chunky than normal, and the first thing that came to mind was the National School Meals Program and the aim of the Ministry of Health to promote healthy eating and provide school children with healthy, nutritious meals. But then I wondered what was happening in the homes of these obviously overweight children. Did the parents even notice that there children were heavier than they should be? Were they concerned? What were they feeding these children?
In developed and developing countries, there are two and three fast food restaurants on every corner, and obesity is either fast becoming an epidemic or already is. In the United States of America, Canada, and Great Britain, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the problem of childhood or juvenile obesity as exactly that – an epidemic. These children run the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other serious illnesses in adulthood.
A simple definition of childhood obesity is an excessive amount of body weight.
Within the last three to four decades, because of the dramatic changes in diet in many industrialized countries, some of the major causes of childhood obesity include, but are not limited to:
Lack of exercise or complete lack of involvement in physical activity With major advancements in technology, the ever-increasing variety of fast foods readily available and the inadequate amount of parental supervision, children are more often than not planted in front of the television, computer or video game, rather than engaging in playtime which involves cardiovascular exercise.
Very Poor Diet Poor nutrition equals weight gain, pure and simple. All the fast food, the highly processed, high-calorie and fatty or fried foods are the main culprits, especially if they outweigh the intake of the recommended daily allowances of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Genetics There are some things that are just passed on from one generation to another, and if you have a family history of obesity, special attention should be placed on healthy food intake and regular exercise.
A child who carries around excess weight is subjected to both emotional and physical health consequences, and is at a greater risk of developing heart disease. Other severe physical ailments include:
• Sleep apnea
• Type 2 diabetes
• Liver disease
• Orthopedic problems
The emotional side effects of obesity include low self-esteem and bullying, depression, and learning and behavioral problems.
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