Overweight has to do with the amount of food thus the amount of energy one consumes and amount of physical activity one delivers plus a possible genetic predisposition to being heavy. The latter is difficult to influence, but wonders can happen if we can influence the other 2 factors. Not everyone who is heavy has overweight. Children, who are well built, will be much heavier than age- and length-mates with a slender physique. As you may know when having more well-built muscles, weight will also be higher than average. Muscles weigh more than fat. Therefore, it sometimes happens that a child with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) may not appear as having overweight or fat. On considering such numbers, one should always interpret the individual physical aspect of the child in question. We heard and read a lot over healthy nutrition and lifestyle but what about that eating habits start from breastfeeding! Do we know enough about making movement fun?
The purpose of all known efforts is to prevent children and teenagers face chronic diseases at adulthood. Studies show that the frequency of obesity among youth in the UAE is 2 to 3 times greater than the recently published international standard. The consequences of childhood overweight are well known as they have seriously increased. Therefore, we emphasize that the principles of a healthy diet and life style, are the foundation for an adulthood with a healthy weight and well-being.
It begins with the stimulation of breastfeeding. It appears that children who are breast fed are less likely to be overweight. They learn from the start to match intake to their needs. Children have a natural ability to know their limits! Variation is a demand, as there is a variety of fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy products and meats. Children are brought early into contact with many different flavors of food. This ranges from tender to fibrous, salty to sweet. It is common for toddlers to take a long time before they accept a certain taste. You may have to offer 10 times, this may be the key in preventing the development of serious eating disorders. There are parents who no longer try after the first refusal, with the result that their son or daughter returns to only what he or she wants to take.
Regularity is significant. In having 3 main meals, a child recognizes a clear pattern. Also for snacks, a moment of rest should be taken. Think also about sitting together with your child when having these meals. Therefore the target is 3 main healthy varied proportionated meals and up to 4 healthy snacks. But the truth is that approximately 30% of children leave out breakfast and tend to have snacks which are very unhealthy. What happens when a child misses breakfast? Many children miss breakfast in the morning and go sober to school. During the day they get hungry and eat regular unhealthy snacks. What happens is that they are taking carbohydrates with short effects. The child’s body exerts actually no effort to digest and use the products. So he or she grabs the next snack quickly and refuse to have the healthy major meals. And it goes on and on. If a child is sober, he or she will have difficulties in concentrating and thus face learning problems. It is better if you and your child have a proper breakfast together. Then there is a regular flow of carbohydrate’s products into the blood. Brains use a lot of energy and run best when they have energy at their disposal.
A healthy lifestyle is part of a culture. This means that certain eating habits belong to a group and are brought over with control over a certain food culture. Changes in that may seem difficult, but it is not impossible! It starts in the child’s small world, at home and then extends to school until adulthood. A distinct parent style with a clear structure within which a child can to some extent make their own given healthy choices, is the best approach. A bad example is a style in which meals are spread over a long time and having children walk around with unhealthy foods of preference. The looser a style is the less the control is over the child, and thus not knowing what a child consumes and not knowing how to influence it. Perhaps sometimes it is unintentionally done due to various reasons, but by returning to fixed times and meals with a fixed start and end brings the children eventually to a healthier lifestyle.
School boards and municipalities play also a major role. If school canteens and vending machines offer only healthy stuff, we could have already achieved a lot. Approach school and sport canteens. More and more schools are going for a healthy canteen and vending machines with healthy snacks. That is not rigid but actually up to date. It is only a matter of time before it is introduced everywhere. Schools can therefore now better begin with, the sooner the better. A relevant example worth mentioning is a long term project called “Epode: Ensemble prévenons l ‘ obésité des enfants”. It included several organizations at different levels in order to change behavior. This project did not target only risk groups, but the whole society in bringing a great change. In the project, 2 different French municipalities were compared. What is striking is that it works! So similar initiatives are been taken in other countries. In Dubai more than 32% of school children are overweight or obese. The in 2010 conducted “Beat obesity campaign” project, held campaigns in 100 schools spreading awareness regarding obesity and its consequences. Staying active differs. For your child applies 60 minutes, seven days a week. If you are enthusiast, it is fun for your child to move together. So give a healthy example and see how much energy you both get! To be a healthy example to your children, here are a number of tips. Less television and computer, more exercise. Children prefer to play computer games and watch TV. Make clear agreements about this. Consider which programs and at what times, with a maximum of 2 hours per day. Watch yourself less TV or spend less time behind the computer. Move and be his or her idol example.
Be active in and around the house. Chores and cleaning are also underestimated physical activities. For them to be able to count towards your daily 30 minutes exercise, you should have at least 10 consecutive minutes of movement. Let your child give you a hand. Get active together from A to B. Walking or cycling are good alternatives to the car, especially for small distances. Take your child for example with the cycle to the store or on the step to the playground. Walk to check out the nursery or playgroup. Playing is healthy and fun. Play as much as possible with your child, inside and outside. Even with some bad weather, you can still play outside. Whether you’re playing on the sidewalk or beach, make it fun to move, play and explore. And it does not have to be difficult. Simple activities can be of great fun and impact on your child. Give your child plenty of room to move.
Please do bear in mind that we together as parents, teachers, officials and health professionals, are all responsible to contribute in the development and maintaining of “The healthy minds dwelling the healthy bodies” of our children, the future of the societies and nations. As it starts at home, as a newborn and will stay throughout life everywhere!