Obesity is a major problem for all affluent countries, and even some developing nations. We now know that the seeds of obesity are laid in childhood, and childhood obesity should be the target of preventive efforts. Obesity in people persists -- it is very difficult to reverse it. Fat children become fat adults, and are prone to all the problems of obesity.
While treating obesity is extremely difficult, even preventing it is not easy. Apart from efforts from the individual, it needs sustained and planned efforts from families, schools, communities, industry, insurance companies, and the government.
Prevention of obesity requires a lot of effort from the family. Activity, nutrition, junk food policy -- all these have to be regulated for the whole family to have any benefit.
Activity: The most important component of obesity prevention is increasing activity. Children are geting more and more sedentary, and this is having an effect on their weight. Families have to set activity targets for everyone, to improve the overall health and fitness of everyone in the home.
Joint plans for the whole family work well. A half hour of playing together, or going cycling, is easy to arrange, and has great benefits. Families should encourage children and teenagers to walk or cycle to school and other destinations. Children should also be encouraged to join sports teams and to participate in non-competitive sports activities also.
Food habits: These are vitally important. Bad habits not only have a bad effect in the immediate time, but leave long lasting problems. Children should be taught to eat a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Don't have desserts too often at home, and don't use them as rewards. Children should be taught to take small helpings, so that they can stop eating when full.
Fiber, vegatables and grains are important components of a healthy diet. Families should consult a dietician or doctor about a proper balanced diet for children. Fats should provide 25 percent or less of the total calories consumed in a day. Fast food restaurants should be infrequently visited -- the food there is high in sugars and fats, and the portions are often very large.
Television: Television viewing contributes significantly to obesity and overweight. Children who spend a lot of time watching television obviously have less time for physical activity. Secondly, most people tend to eat a lot of snacks while watching television. Also, the advertisements on television promote the eating of high calorie, high fat foods.
Families should set limits on the time allowed for watching television. In fact, this limit should extend to other sedentary activities like playing computer games, using the computer, watching movies, etc.
Last Revision: February 14, 2016
Children spend a lot of time in school, and have meals there, too. Also, schools have a lot of influence on children's minds. Schools should, therefore, have policies that encourage activity and healthy food habits.
Activity: Schools can easily promote a more active lifestyle. Longer recess periods to allow students to play after eating, and compulsory physical education classes, go a long way in meeting activity targets for children. Having formal sports, competitions, and teams also encourages students to take to sports.
Besides sports, schools can promote healthy habits like using the stairs, cycling to school instead of taking a bus, and walking to various places.
Nutrition: Schools should serve healthy and balanced meals. High calorie, high fat food, fast food, and fried snacks should be avoided in school cafeterias. Students should be encouraged to include more fruits and non-fried vegetables in their meal.
An important decision being taken in several places is to prevent soft drink and fast food from being sold in schools.
Dr. Parang Mehta,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India. Tel: +91 9429486624.
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