In Singapore, the incidence of overweight/obesity amongst school children is 11%. Being overweight increases the risk of many diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease and certain cancers. A child is considered overweight when his weight is 20 percent or more above his ideal weight for height.
As a parent, you play an important part in helping your child. If you suspect that your child is overweight, have it checked out before he develops any medical conditions associated with overweight. It is important that you see a dietitian or doctor, who can assess your child's history of weight gain and growth pattern.
Generally, overweight is the result of consuming more calories than the body needs, resulting in the unused energy being stored as body fat. This could be due to several contributing factors, like:
Children whose parents or siblings are overweight are also more likely to become overweight, due to genetic and lifestyle factors.
The aim is to reach and maintain a healthy weight appropriate for the height of your child. The best way to achieve this is by making small but permanent changes in eating habits and physical activity, instead of drastic changes that most probably will not last for long. Remember, healthy eating habits should be gradually developed, so do not put your child on an overly-restrictive diet as this is likely to fail. It is better to allow small amounts of foods like chocolate, ice cream or tit-bits once a week than not at all.
Reducing fat is a good way to cut calories without depriving your child of important nutrients. Simple ways to cut the fat in your family's diet include :
Children who skip their main meals tend to eat more snacks. As snacks are often high in calories and low in fibre, this may lead to overeating.
Encourage eating only at the dining table. Eating in front of the TV is distracting and it is easy to lose track of the amounts eaten, thus leading to overeating.
When foods like sweets or fast foods are used as a reward, children will assume that these foods are better or more valuable than others.
Not only will your child not feel singled out, the whole family benefits from a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle.
Regular physical activity, combined with healthy eating habits, is the most effective way to control your child's weight.
Although your child may be overweight, he is also growing. Therefore, the aim is not for him to lose weight but rather to gain weight at a slower rate. Treatment programmes, if any, should be carried out under medical supervision to ensure that it is safe, and that your child is not deprived of any essential nutrients.
Be there for your child - he needs your support and encouragement.
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