A shocking statistic reveals that over 14% of primary school children in South Africa are overweight according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It is predicted by 2025 there will be 70 million obese children worldwide.
It is reported that:
- Children of overweight parents, children subjected to malnutrition during pregnancy or infancy are both more likely to become obese when they are older
- Increasing screen time and normal lack of moving around and exercise because of this, means more children are at risk of obesity.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the fastest growth of obesity is in the African region, where childhood overweight and obesity has more than doubled from 1990 to 2013.
Obese children are more susceptableto cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance (often an early sign of diabetes), musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis), some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon) and even becoming disabled. Coupled with this is the psychological effects of being overweight as a child – where children are teased and the resulting lack of self-esteem leading to binge eating is not uncommon.
Dr Rosetta Guidozzi, a GP with a special interest in weight management recommends that without parents leading a healthy life with healthy eating habits, it pointless to hope that their children and teens will do so.
She says, “Parents need to monitor any monies being given to their teenagers and how this is spent, to monitor their eating patterns at home and provide guidance about eating outside their immediate home.
“Parents need to be interested in their children’s health and provide the correct support. The most important factor to stress is the teenager’s health and consequences of obesity with lack of exercise on their future wellness.”
The culprits are Sugary drinks, Snack foods, such as chips, baked goods and sweets, junk food, large portion size and very little or no exercise.
In South Africa, it is reported that ‘young girls are most at risk of becoming overweight and obese, with statistics showing that 30% of girls living in urban areas are overweight or obese. Physical appearance is a particularly sensitive issue for children entering adolescence. Being overweight or obese is also one of the most common reasons that children and adolescents are teased at school’.
Dr Kelly Owen, a psychologist from Greenside Johannesburg, says “Parents need to be highly cognisant of their own attitudes, behaviours and biases towards weight, body image and food because their children will learn directly and vicariously how to feel about their own bodies.
Self-esteem, body image and self-confidence are all influenced by the child’s environment. Body image studies in children consistently show that sociocultural factors such as child rearing practises, parenting styles, societal standards of beauty, the mass media, and cash in trends are all impacting on girls to the extent that body dissatisfaction has become normative in females of all ages.”
Dr Guidozzi says, “Medically approved medication must only be considered in obese teenagers and must be monitored very carefully by a healthcare provider. The idea is not to teach the teenager to diet but rather to adopt a healthy long term eating pattern and lifestyle. This eating pattern and choice of foods must be suitable towards their plans for the days, culture, affordability and education. It is important that they realize that they are the decision makers and must remain autonomous. It must not be a battle of wills and dominance- this will lead to an eating disorder. Ultimately the eating plan should suit each particular individual and be able to suit the household as well.”