Is your child too fat?

Fat babies are likely to be fat children and are likely to be fat teenagers and fat adults.

In the African culture overweight has many positive attributes. Obese children are seen as beautiful and well taken care of by the parents and this encourages mothers to start feeding solids to their infants very early (putting cereal in baby’s bottle at 1 month of age) and to overfeed their children.

In the Western world there is pressure to be thin because thinness is seen as one being in control, sophisticated and glamorous. Neither is correct, each person should be at a healthy weight.

How do I know that my child is too fat?

Obesity is when there is an excessive build up of body fat.

Health care professionals use the Growth Chart (similar to the Clinic card) to plot your child’s weight for his or her height and age - in other words BMI- for age. This growth chart simply compares your child to other children of the same sex and age.

 If your child falls on the 60th percentile then that means when compared to children of the same sex and age, 60% have a lower BMI.
•    If BMI-for –age falls between the 85th and 95th percentiles then the child is at risk of overweight
•    If BMI-for –age falls above the 95th percentile, the child is obese
The diagnosis is not based on one reading but rather on the trend that the child’s measurements have taken over a couple of months.

Tip : Make sure that at every visit to the clinic or doctor, your child’s growth is assessed.
What causes obesity in children?

There are many factors that cause obesity in children and these are a combination of nutritional, psychological, hereditary and physiological factors.

The family – if the parents are obese then there is a high chance that the children will be obese too. This may be due to genetic factors but it may also be because parents who eat whatever they like whenever and who don’t exercise, are likely to pass this behaviour on to their children.

Tip : Children mimic the behavior of adults, teach your children from a young age to play (exercise) and to eat healthily.

Lack of exercise: obesity is high amongst children who watch a lot of TV largely because their bodies use up very little energy to watch and also because they sit in front of the TV with high energy, high fat snacks.

Tip :
Involve your children in activities after school or make time in the afternoons to play with your children that way you also will benefit from the exercise and also bond with them.

Heredity: Children born to overweight mothers are likely to be less active and gain weight faster than children born to normal weight mothers. Heredity does play a part in distribution of fat and response to overfeeding.

Tip :
You can still help them choose a healthier lifestyle. Just because it’s hereditary doesn’t mean you should let your children watch TV endlessly and eat all they like.

So what if my child is obese?

Obese children can develop serious health problems such as:
•    Diabetes
•    Heart disease
•    Metabolic syndrome
•    High blood pressure
•    Asthma
•    Sleep disorders
•    Liver disease
•    Early puberty ( early start of menstruation for girls)
•    Eating disorders
•    Psychological problems (being called names by kids eg fatty bom bom!)
•    Skin infections

What do you think is a healthy approach to children’s weight?
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