Protect your child from obesity

According to the Medical Research Council of South Africa, more than 17 per cent of children between the ages of one and nine living in urban areas are overweight.
The causes of childhood weight gain are varied, with lifestyle factors certainly playing their part. “Environmental factors play an intertwined role with genetics to determine one’s shape and size. “The last two decades have witnessed a 54 per cent increase in childhood obesity, which indicates that environmental factors are playing an increasing role. Increased dependence on fast foods and convenience foods is a major contributor. In addition, society’s advancement in technology has conditioned our children into a sedentary lifestyle,” said dietitian, Heidi Lobel.

Here are some tips for parents:
* Deal with the psychology of the matter. “Overweight children often feel bombarded with negative messages from school, at parties and through the media. It’s imperative for parents to build self-esteem and body image to provide the tools for children to believe that they can achieve their goals,” said Heidi.
* Limit TV time and encourage kids to participate in sports at school and/or introduce exercise-related activities, such as hiking, cycling or walking the dog, into family life.
* Teach your child how to handle stress in a healthy way. Model the perfect example by keeping your own stress in check; stay organised, use relaxation techniques, and prioritise your responsibilities.
* Be a water advocate. Instead of buying sodas, sports drinks, and juice boxes, consider having store-bought water on hand instead. Not only does this help in cutting down on the amount of sugar in your child’s diet (and yours), but it also keeps them hydrated.
* Offer children a variety of nutritious foods to promote healthy behaviour and to motivate and enable weight loss. Similarly, teach children about the consequences of good and bad food choices.
Finally, it’s important to note that childhood obesity is a family problem. It’s essential for the whole family to adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

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