Childhood, Obesity, Eating, Food, Junk Food, Organic Food

“The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behaviour. The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behaviour”.

As every coin has two sides (heads and tails), parenting has two sides too. Parents and home is the primary source of knowledge and socialization for the child. Parents always influence every behaviour, norm, value, belief of the child. For example, Parents somehow influence a child’s chosen activity in their life as (children become doctors more who have their parents as doctors). Likely, in the case of obesity, parents can significantly increase or decrease it. Let’s see further about obesity and how parents influence this domain of the child’s life.

What is obesity?

It is a physical state where the person has an excessive amount of body fat. But, obesity affects the individual physically, but it also affects the individual’s mental and social aspects. For instance, Rohan is obese, which has impacted his social life. He is subjected to bullying by his peers, mental aspect as he feels anxious loses appetite, and can even develop various eating disorders and physically, obesity. It can cause multiple chronic illnesses like hypertension, thyroid, diabetes and many others that can impair life. A WHO report noted that in India, 650 million were obese. In India, child obesity has become another country’s epidemic as 14.4 million obese children; India has the second-highest number of obese children globally, next to China. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is 15%. But, the main question arises, why child obesity occurs? Why people become obese throughout their life? Let’s look deeper down in that-

There are various reasons for child obesity, but the main is the influence and role of parents and family factors in obesity.

Family Factors/Parents/Parenting Role:

Parents and homes are the primary sources of knowledge to the children. Many children adopt behaviours and beliefs the same as their parents; thus, parents can play a significant role in the obesity of their children. The type of food available in the house, strictness on discipline, and the parents’ activity level can influence their lifestyle and behaviours. For instance, if the parents will not provide healthy foods to children, that can lead their child to adapt to a junk or sugary foods. If parents do not push their children to participate in different sports or workouts, that can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and later obesity. As in India, many houses do not allow girls to participate in different sports activities or workouts, leading to a sedentary lifestyle, resulting in a higher obesity rate among girls. Various researches by WHO reports that 18.5% of the girl child as obese in India.

ALSO, READ | Obesity Affecting Youngsters: What And How Much Is Right To Eat?

Different studies have also reported that having an overweight mother/ father and living under a single parent can increase the rate of obesity among children. On the one hand, as mentioned above, parents can play a significant role in expanding obesity among children. On the other hand, some parents also play an essential role in decreasing their children’s obesity rates through different positive methods and motivation techniques.

Besides family and parental factors, various other factors can play a significant role in childhood obesity; these factors are-

  • Sugary Foods/Snack Foods/Diet- Diet of a child, plays a crucial role in obesity. As regularly eating high-calorie food, junk food, beverages and snacks high on sugar, baked and fried foods and vending machine snacks can cause the child to gain weight. For instance, as in current scenarios, especially in Delhi, children adapt to junk foods like desserts, candy, and sugary drinks, leading to a significant weight gain that can later hinder their physical and mental health. Another aspect included under the diet is that different studies reported the portion size of the child’s meals. As portion size of the meals have increased drastically and children consume frequent snacks, that can lead to more significant weight gain.
  • Environmental Factors- Technology has been advanced, and there is a rapid increase in the use of social media and internet connectivity, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. As in the pandemic’s current scenario, schools and colleges teach children online in their houses through online means. But this has adversely impacted the child’s physical health and even increases the rate of obesity because there is a decrease in activity level compared to pre-pandemic times. Besides the online sources, nowadays safety has become a significant issue as children are not safe on roads and playgrounds that lead to parents becoming resisting sending their children outside for sports/activities that lead to sedentary lifestyle and weight gain. A study conducted in 2002 found that 53% of parents drove their children to school. Of these parents, 66% said they went their children to school since their homes were too far away from the school. Parents’ other reasons for driving their children to school included no safe walking route, fear of child predators, and out of convenience for the child.[1]
  • Psychological Factors- Different stressors to a child can lead to child obesity. For instance, breaking up the family (divorce, death of a parent, single mother/father) can significantly influence the child’s obesity levels. Other stressors on a child, such as online education in current times of pandemic, can dramatically impact his/her obesity rate. Many children overeat/binge eat to cope with their daily life issues/ stressors (it works the same as addiction to any other toxic substance).
  • Socio-Cultural /Economic Factors- Society play a significant role in developing bad habits that can lead to child obesity. As society plays an essential role in a child’s socialization, it tends to use food as a reward that leads to the development of various bad food habits among children, later turning these into childhood obesity. Along with these issues, every family/individual does not have available resources for healthy foods that may be more expensive than junk food/ food high on calories, leading to child obesity. Many children, who came from lower neighbouring areas, do not have resources to exercise.

There are various factors, as mentioned above, that can play a significant role in child obesity, but still, parents/parenting has a minimal role in each of the factors that can later turn into childhood obesity. 

Tips For Parents/Society And Children To Control Child’s Obesity-

  • Parents have to be aware of child obesity and how it is increasing at a rapid rate. Besides being mindful about it in general, parents should learn about their kids and if they belong to an obese/ overweight category and help their overweight children and not demoralize them.
  • Parents can help children maintain their weight or avoid obesity by promoting and providing a healthy lifestyle by providing their children with more nutritious foods than junk or high-calorie snacks/ food items. Parents can also encourage sports/ other physical activities to the children by being part of it. Parents can also incorporate fun and exciting activities among children, leading to a decrease in their sedentary lifestyle.
  • Parents should keep track of their social life as they are doing with their peers outside and keeping track of what foods their child is consuming outside the house.
  • Parents should also keep track of their child’s mental health regarding what issues/ stressors their child is facing and helping their children depend on their parents to cope with the problems rather than relying upon junk food/ high calories food items. Along with it, children themselves play a significant role in controlling their obesity to track their mental health and talk to their parents when needed.
  • Children should ensure adequate sleep as little sleep is majorly associated with high levels of obesity among children. Inadequate sleep makes children crave more junk food to keep them high on energy and use their power little and adapt to a sedentary lifestyle.