Chubby kids are the cutest, with all the baby fat making them even more adorable. But, what most parents don’t know, or don’t want to know, is that 1 in 5 kids (aged 6–19) suffers from obesity. Childhood obesity is a major epidemic that’s on the rise in the US and world over every single year. And make no mistake, it isn’t harmless.
Childhood obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep issues like apnea, and bone health issues. Adding to it all, obese kids tend to be bullied more, feel like a misfit wherever they go, have low self-esteem, and suffer from depression. Once they get through the traumatic childhood, obesity passes on to adulthood with the health issues and can even turn fatal.
Knowing what’s causing the obesity can help with weight loss. So, here are 7 possible causes of obesity and how to deal with them.
1. Working Parents Or A Single Parent
What’s your work got to do with your child’s puppy fat? Probably, everything! Working parents or a single parent multitasking all day usually does not have enough time or energy to focus on what kids eat. This gives the kids a lot more freedom to choose what they do with their day, and no child would choose fruits over a tasty fried snack!
Also, working parents or single parenting normally means eating outside more often, eating pre-packaged foods, or freezing lunches/dinner for the entire week. Outside/packaged dishes tend to be calorie- and energy-dense. The process of freezing removes almost all the good nutrients from the foods.2
2. Indoor Gaming/TV Addiction
As a parent, you probably think that you had a much better childhood than your kid. You’re right in more number of ways than you think. Before mobiles and gaming came into the picture, kids spent most of their time outdoors. This ensured enough physical activity without making the kids feel like they’re working out and obesity was naturally kept at bay. Now, educative as they might be, television programs and games (to name a few) keep the kids stuck to the couch.
Such sedentary habits ensure that kids aren’t physically active; hence, they don’t burn enough calories. Just like adults, kids also might eat more (of unhealthy stuff) while engrossed in some programme. All of this leads to unhealthy weight gain.
3. Stress And Depression
Childhood is not an age where you should feel stressed and depressed. Nevertheless, depression is prevalent in nearly 2 percent of children and 4–8 percent of adolescents, and the number is increasing. To make things worse, stress and mood disorders are common causes of childhood obesity. Stress can be due to performance issues, inability to fit in at school, or peer pressure of any kind, which gradually leads to depression.
Just like you, kids also tend to think that eating will make them feel better. This applies even if they’re too nervous or terrified of doing something. Eating is one of the best (albeit unhealthy) way to manage negative emotions.
4. Sleep Pattern
Sleep issues and depression go hand in hand, and both are quite closely related to obesity issues. Depression and other mood disorders cause kids to sleep at odd hours and stay up late into the night, which gradually leads to insomnia. Less sleep causes excessive hunger and midnight snacking. To make things worse, it causes decreased insulin sensitivity and diabetes, a leading cause of obesity.3
Children are not much different from adults; they’re just a younger version of you. When they’re bored, they might click through boring TV programs but nevertheless, stick to the couch, play endless games, and eat more and more of unhealthy snacks – anything to keep them occupied.
6. School Lunches
Buying lunch at school means a lot more liberty for kids. They have a range of high-calorie, high-fat foods to choose from and not too many healthy dishes. As kids expend a lot more energy than adults, they require more calories in a day. So, a big, fat lunch is most welcome, especially if it’s fried, processed, filled with sugar, and cheesy (the more the better).
7. Obese Ancestors
Your kid just might be unlucky enough to have gotten the weight factor through genes as obesity can run in families. So, if you’re obese, your kid might turn out to be obese as well. There’s a 25–40 percent chance that children inherit their parents’ BMI.
However, less than 5 percent of childhood obesity is due to hereditary factors. If combined with other risk factors like unhealthy eating habits or environments, the risk is higher.