Fat to fit: causes and control of childhood obesity

Thomas John

‘Mens sana in corpore sano’, a Latin phrase, translated as ‘a sound mind in a sound body’, indeed holds true; a healthy body is crucial for the emotional and mental happiness of a person.

It is unfortunate though that today’s education system is rather compartmentalized, leaving little possibility for the holistic development of young people in physical, social and emotional areas of life. When it comes to making a sports career, parents are often skeptical and very few identify the inclination of their kids at a young age and encourage them to choose a professional path in sports. Thankfully, the nerve-racking performances of Indian players in international championships have led to nation-wide awareness of the possibility of a successful sports life. More recently, the Bollywood hit, ‘Dangal’, depicting the struggles and victories of the Phogat sisters has enthralled and inspired the entire nation, conveying that sports need not have any gender bias and that one can have a meaningful professional sports career with hard work, dedication and determination.

fat-boy In the quest for academic success, most kids and parents forget that a sedentary life is the cause of such things as childhood obesity which negatively affects the overall wellbeing of children causing emotional imbalance, low self-esteem and depression. Today, kids are often seen playing computer games or watching TV. Add to this, the so called ‘junk food’ lifestyle that they follow! Carrying homemade healthy tiffin is considered not-so-cool; rather, what is stylish for today’s kids is to catch up with friends at the nearest McD, KFC or Subway joints. Thus, there is a need to inculcate the importance of healthy eating habits in children right from an early age. According to recent reports, childhood obesity in India is on the rise (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859125/) and hence, appropriate awareness programmes and measures must be implemented before the situation reaches alarming statistics. Fats are the ultimate cause of obesity and children need to be made aware of what and how much they eat. Misleading suggestions for fat reduction such as fasting or eating only one meal a day can cause muscle loss in the long run. Instead of following such fads, I enlist a few simple and fun ways for the control of childhood obesity.

For parents: simple but effective ways to prevent childhood obesity

  1. Whenever possible, rather than driving kids to school, walk them down to school or at least up to the bus stop or school vehicle pick up point.
  2. Kids from nuclear families with working parents often give in to comfort eating and force their parents to buy them calorie packed foods such as pizzas, fries and burgers. In order to promote dietary awareness, encourage children to read the nutrition information on each product, may it be chips, soda drinks, biscuits, cakes or candies.
  3. Go grocery shopping together and encourage children to pick up healthy food items.
  4. Don’t use junk foods to motivate your child to behave well or study well/score good marks.
  5. Explain to them the benefits of drinking plenty of water.
  6. Motivate children to spend quality time outside home for outdoor activities and games.
  7. At home, keep fruits in a convenient place so that kids can easily locate them and have them as and when they feel hungry. Avoid stacking unhealthy foodstuffs at home. The more you have such stuff at home, the more frequently you end up eating them.
  8. Consult a doctor if the situation seems out of control or for planning a well-balanced diet for your child.

slim-boy For teachers: simple activity-oriented ways to make PE periods enjoyable and meaningful

  1. 100 metres running: is a form of aerobic exercise (cardio). It’s a great way to strengthen the leg muscles and to increase stamina.
  2. Skipping: increases stamina and helps in maintaining appropriate body weight.
  3. Shot put: is an outdoor game for increasing shoulder power and to strengthen the arm and wrist.
  4. Push-ups: is a very effective exercise for strengthening and building muscle mass of the upper body and improving body structure.
  5. Pull-ups/Chin-ups: is helpful to make your shoulders stronger with a wider back. It also helps in building over all mass of the back, arm and wrist.
  6. Swimming: is a complete way to exercise your entire body, at the same time making you feel relaxed, imparting muscle flexibility and increasing stamina.
  7. Stretching: is an important part of exercise and games regime which is recommended to be done at the end of any physical activity. After heavy physical strain on the body, stretching helps reduce stiffness of the muscles and reduces the possibility of internal injuries.
  8. Organizing short lectures on sports awareness, physiology, health and nutrition:
    • It is important to make students aware of the basics of sports physiology and biomechanics. For instance, knowledge of the different kinds of injuries associated with different sports and the preventive measures and treatment is critical to overcome unfortunate events leading to injuries in a sportsman’s life and career.
    • Essential knowledge of a balanced diet and diet components is absolutely necessary as it helps to have a physically fit body and also gives you an advantage to prevent many life threatening diseases and disorders including blood cholesterol, high or low blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes.

Finally, at the end of a hectic day, free-willed play or any physical activity can work wonders in rejuvenating your mind, body and soul!

“Your body, mind and soul were designed to act as one.
Connect the three and you will align with the life of your dreams.”

– Roxana Jones

The author is a Fitness Entrepreneur and is currently associated with Col. Mahadik Gym, Pune. He is a trained fitness instructor and has worked for several health clubs. He is pursuing a diploma in Nutrition and Health Education. He likes delivering popular lectures on nutrition and sports education. He can be reached at thomasthrt@gmail.com.