The term obesity refers to the excess of fat tissue in
the body. In simple terms, a child is said to be obese if his
weight is 20% more than the standard weight for his age and height. The ideal body weight for height (%
IBWH) is the actual
weight divided by the median weight for the child’s sex and
height multiplied by 100. This may be represented as:
|% IBWH =
||Actual weight x 100
Expected (median weight)
Obesity is then defined as greater than 120% of IBWH.
Parents of obese children often get worried for the wrong reasons. They wonder if the child
has some endocrinal or hormonal disorder. Obese male children
seem to have a small penis. Actually, the penis is of the
normal size, but it appears small when it gets buried into the fatty tissue at its base. The apparently small size of the
penis, coupled with obesity, raises the doubt of a hormonal disorder in the minds of the parents.
Although certain hormonal disorders can give rise to obesity, most cases are not due to any
Children with more fat around the midsection (‘apple-shaped’ children) have more
risk factors later in life than their ‘pear-shaped’ peers
who have more fat around the hips and thighs.
CAUSES: The three main causes of obesity are a family history of obesity, inactivity and
poor family food
habits. Emotionally disturbed children may also eat more.
Television viewing adds to inactivity. The problem gets worse if
the child is allowed to eat while watching television.
Fortunately, most obese toddlers lose the extra fat
around 5 years of age. But a fat school child is likely to
remain obese, especially if the parents are fat.
MANAGEMENT: Help your child to adopt healthy food habits and exercise. It is important
that the whole
family cooperates with the child. Junk foods like cold drinks,
ice creams, cakes, pastries, French fries and sweets should
not be brought into the house, or the child tempted with
them. A minimum of ghee or oil should be used for cooking. More
of fruits, vegetables, whole wheat grains, beans, pulses
and sprouts should be eaten. Consumption of meat should be restricted. Snacks should consist of fresh fruits and
fruit juices, low fat milk and dahi, paneer, khakhra (very
thin roasted chapatis from Gujarat),
raw vegetables, puffed rice,
corn on the cob and popcorn without butter.
Obese children tend to eat fast and at irregular hours.
They should be encouraged to eat slowly, chew properly and
stick to regular mealtimes as far as possible.
This subject is discussed at length in the chapter on HEALTHY
HABITS. This is as, if not
more important, as
diet control for weight reduction.
Discuss the risks of obesity with the child. Tell him
that it can cause heart disease and other chronic diseases including hypertension, early
and hyperinsulinaemia. Let him feel responsible for his well
being. Do not give him appetite-suppressant drugs. Do not
starve him, he needs an adequate number of calories. Spend more time with your child and encourage him in his
11 February, 2013