Obesity is becoming a big problem in the United Kingdom, due to the way that our diets have changed over the last 100 years. More and more children are now being categorised as overweight or obese. According to a recent study, 1 in 3 children is now considered to be overweight or obese.
Although it is important to promote a positive body image in children and young adults, it is also essential that families are able to recognise the threat that being overweight or obese can pose to a child’s health. Excess weight puts unnecessary strain on vital organs and other body parts during growth, and this can lead to lifelong medical complications. It is therefore very important that families take steps to recognise and address weight issues in infants and children.
Is My Child Overweight?
One of the standard measures of a child’s development is their body mass index (BMI). Their BMI is calculated by using height (in metres) squared, divided by weight (in kilograms). Although BMI is also used to calculate adult obesity, the numbers must be interpreted in a slightly different way for people who are under the age of 18.
Doctors, nurse and healthcare professionals take into account the child’s age, sex and ethnicity when they are doing their calculations. If you are planning on using a BMI calculator which is online, you must ensure that it is one which is designed for children. Should you have the time to do so now you can use the BMI calculator below.
The Risks of Being Overweight
Prolonged childhood obesity will increase the risk that the child will develop type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, gallstones, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease as they move towards adulthood. Excess weight increases the wear and tear on the joints which can lead to early-onset osteoarthritis. If your child is obese before they can walk, it may even affect their ability to walk properly. Some obese toddlers will develop bow legs.
Obese children who have developed breathing difficulties because of their weight are likely to be tired all of the time. Weight problems can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. Many obese children develop a form of sleep apnoea where they stop breathing whilst they are asleep. Most of the time, sleep apnoea will result in a very restless night’s sleep for the sufferer, although in some extreme cases it can result in death.
It is possible to be both overweight and malnourished, because malnourishment refers to severe deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. Children who consume a high calorie and high sugar diet which is largely made up of processed foods are unlikely to get the vital nutrients that they need from these foods.
Common deficiencies in children include iron deficiencies and vitamin D deficiencies. Malnourishment can lead to a wide range of different problems, depending on what the child is lacking.
What to do if Your Child is Overweight or Obese
If you are concerned that your child might be overweight or obese, you are advised to speak to your GP. They will help you to understand the extent of the problem and they can help you to decide what you need to do to address it. In some cases, you may be referred to a nutritional specialist who will be able to help you to meet the specific nutritional needs of your child. A referral is particularly likely if your child has allergies or intolerances which may prevent them from enjoying a normal healthy diet.
Children should not be put on a crash diet or a popular fad diet, because these diets can have a severe effect on their growing bodies. In fact, the weight loss strategy that your child uses may need to be tailored specifically for their needs. This will help to balance their need to develop with their need to lose body fat.
Children who are only slightly overweight should cut down on sugary treats, fizzy drinks and processed junk foods. They should also try to increase their activity levels. Lowering calorie intake so that it is below calorie expenditure can help to reduce your child’s weight so that it is back within the normal range.
Some local health authorities run special nutrition workshops and support groups for parents have an overweight child. These workshops help parents to understand more about the foods that they are eating and how to feed their families to improve their health. If you are interested in this type of workshop, then you should ask your doctor or GP’s surgery if they are aware of any similar initiatives which are being run in the local area. Alternatively, some community groups and council organisations also run support groups to offer nutrition advice to lower income families, to help them to eat healthily on a lower budget.