When Humpty Dumpty went for a run!

Eat. Play. Lose.- Nipping childhood obesity at the bud

PEOPLE TREE Hospitals understands the importance of a healthy childhood as it highly contributes to keeping their adulthood free of diseases. Hence, we have come up with India’s first lifestyle clinic for children-KIDS TREE to help parents nurture the life of their young ones from a very tender age.

Dr. Supraja Chandrasekar, a Consultant Paediatric Intensivist of PEOPLE TREE has extensively talked about childhood obesity and how to deal with it by just following three steps—eating healthy, exercising more and reducing screen time.

How do you know if your child is overweight or obese?

Our doctors will tell you whether your child is overweight or obese by calculating his/her Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measurement of your child's weight in relation to their height. BMI is calculated by dividing your child's weight in kg by their height in metres squared (weight (kg)/height m2).

Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th The paediatrics team at PEOPLE TREE Hospital has highlighted a few points which extensively contribute to childhood obesity.

percentile for children of the same age and sex.

Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.

What are the causes of childhood obesity?

Portion size or the quantity your child eats and drinks is important and needs to be monitored. Children tend to consume fatty foods and sugary drinks in more quantities than needed.

Lack of physical activity

Children who don't engage in physical activity are much more likely to gain weight because they don't burn enough calories.

Screen time

A long period of time without exercise, like spending hours watching television or playing video games also contribute to weight gain. Having parents, who are inactive can also increase a child's risk of being overweight or obese.

Lack of sleep

There has been a trend of children going to bed late. This leads to hormonal imbalance (namely leptin and ghrelin) which encourages a child to eat more.

What are the health risks for your child if they’re overweight or obese?

Children who are overweight or obese can develop health problems during childhood because of their weight. The health problems can include:

  • ype 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Risk factors for heart disease

Earlier only adults used to complain about these health problems. However, now an increasing number of children are suffering from these physical ailments.

A child who is overweight or obese also stands an increased risk of:

  • Joint problems, including wear and tear (osteoarthritis) and separation of the ball of the hip joint from the upper end of the thigh bone (slipped capital femoral epiphysis)
  • Hitting puberty early
  • Breathing problems, like worsening of asthma, difficulty in breathing during asleep (obstructive sleep apnea) and feeling out of breath easily when they are exercising.
  • Developing vitamin D deficiency
  • Being overweight or obese as an adult (more than half of the children who are obese will grow up to be obese as adults)
  • Low self esteem, lack of self confidence, bullying, depression
What should you do if you’re worried that your child is overweight or obese?

If you are worried that your child may be overweight or obese, please consult the Paediatric Endocrinologist at PEOPLE TREE Hospitals. We have a team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who are experts in dealing with overweight and obesity in children.

How much weight should a child lose if they are overweight or obese?

Rapid weight loss or strict dieting is not recommended for children—who are still growing. For small children, the aim is usually to keep the weight at the same level rather than undergoing weight loss. As they grow and their height increases, the child should either not gain any weight or their weight gain should be slower than their height gain. For bigger children, weight loss of around 0.5 kg per week may be appropriate. Your doctor will be able to advise what is best for them.

How can you help your child lose weight, or stay a healthy weight?

Obesity develops over time and cannot be solved overnight. Remember that this is not an emergency. Also do not expect a dramatic change as it is unrealistic. The best way to have a healthy weight is prevention. Be sure your family practices healthy habits from the beginning, and prevent yourself and your children from becoming overweight. Always remember, it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight than it is to lose weight.

The best way to treat a child who is overweight or obese is lifestyle modifications. This is where, PEOPLE TREE’s lifestyle clinic KIDS TREE comes into picture. KIDS TREE, India’s first lifestyle clinic for children will bring about healthy changes in the entire family’s way of living. Our paediatric unit understands that a parent is an important role model for their child. Hence, they encourage parents to nurture their own lives and inspire their little ones to follow the same lifestyle.

The two main lifestyle changes that are advised are, your child should eat healthily and engage in plenty of physical activity. In fact, small, gradual changes are the best as your child is then more likely to stick to these changes in the long run. As a parent, you should also try to be involved as much as possible in helping your child make these changes. At every opportunity, praise and encourage your child in what they are doing.

Eating more healthily

The highly experienced paediatric unit of PEOPLE TREE Hospitals has chalked down several points which every family should follow to help keep the weight of a child in check

  • Aim for a balanced and varied diet for the whole family.
  • Encourage your child to eat meals at regular times and to watch how often they are eating. They should avoid snacking as much as possible.
  • Try to eat meals in a sociable atmosphere as a family, without distractions. For example, do not eat in front of the television.
  • If snacks are eaten, they should be healthy snacks (for example, fruit or raw vegetables) instead of sweets, chocolates, biscuits and cakes.
  • Low-calorie drinks are better than sugary drinks (water is the best).
  • Snacks or food should not be used as a reward.
  • Encourage your child to watch the portion sizes of the food that they are eating.
  • Make sure that your child eats more of foods, which are high in fibre.
  • Encourage your child to eat atleast five portions from a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday.
Engaging in physical activity

  • Encourage children to engage in active play, like games that involve moving around a lot, especially skipping, dancing, running or ball games.
  • Encourage your child to spend less time in sedentary activities.
  • Make physical activity a core part of your child's life. Try to be more active as a family. For example, walking or cycling to school and the shops, going for a swim or to the park together.
  • Help children to participate regularly in group physical activities that they enjoy. This may include dancing, football or other sports.
Can medication help a child lose weight?

None of the new medicines to treat obesity are approved for usage by children or adolescents. These weight loss medications may affect your child’s growth, development, and put their health into risk. By far the best approach is helping your whole family—including your child—change their behavior.

Can obesity in children be prevented?

Yes, as a parent, you can help to prevent your child from becoming overweight or obese by:

  • Aiming for a healthy, balanced and varied diet for your whole family.
  • Ensuring that your child is getting the recommended amount of physical activity (at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity a day).
  • Limiting the amount of time that your child spends being inactive (sedentary). For example, less time in front of the computer or watching TV.
  • Making physical activity an eminent part of your family's life in general.
  • Encouraging a healthy lifestyle for your whole family.

Dr. Sharmila Nayak
DNB ( Paed), Fellowship Paed Endo
Junior Consultant Paediatrician & Paediatric Endocrionologist

Dr. Supraja Chandrasekar
MRCPCH {UK},Fellow Paediatric Critical Care {IAP}
Consultant Paediatric Intensivist
Chief - PEOPLE TREE Paediatrics