Battling Childhood Obesity: Should parents put their kids on a diet?
When faced with childhood obesity, how young is too young to go on a diet? Should parents allow their kid to diet so they can drop the extra weight?
Childhood Obesity: Should parents put their kids on a diet?
It’s normal to hear adults say that they’re going on a diet whenever they want to lose weight. People’s obsession over weight loss has even given rise to a lot of fad diets. However, when it’s your child who is overweight, does that mean he should go on a diet too?
Presently, the number of Filipino children becoming obese is increasing and this can be attributed to many factors. Similarly, there are also issues about body image in children, especially for adolescents. Dr. Vanessa Kathleen Cainghug, MD, DPBP, FPPA, a practicing Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist from St. Luke’s Medical Center and The Medical City, states that most adolescents are preoccupied with their physical appearance, such as their body weight, because of the changes happening to them. When peer pressure or media influence come into play, this may lead them to form inaccurate body images, which can result to desperate attempts to lose weight.
So, is it safe for your child go on a diet or not? Is there such as a thing as being “too young” to go on a diet?
There are a lot of arguments raised about this but Cecile Bayaga, a Registered Nutritionist Dietitian, says that “It’s not safe because when you go on a diet, you limit the amount and variety of the food you consume. Limiting amount and variety means the high possibility of limiting the amount of nutrients the body needs. Moreover, dieting only focuses on food. It does not consider physical activity which makes dieting very limiting.” Bayaga also says that the term “dieting” needs clarification because it connotes “exclusion of food groups, much limiting of the amount, or favoring only 1-2 food groups, and exercise is not part of dieting (which is incorrect).”
However, Dra. Cainghug says that going on a diet can be safe or necessary when the child’s body mass index (BMI) is not in the healthy range (i.e. too underweight or overweight). It can become dangerous though when the BMI is already abnormal and the child is engages in activities (or eating habits) that will push it further into the abnormal range.
What can parents do to ensure their kids grow up healthy and with a good body image? Here are some do’s and don’ts.
- Always seek the advice of a registered nutritionist-dietitian. Kids who have to gain or lose weight must be medically supervised.
- Adapt a healthy diet and lifestyle to encourage your kids to follow suit. Parents must be a good example to their children.
- Increase physical activity. Encourage your kids to walk, run, swim, jogging, bike, etc. Bayaga says that these should be part of family’s planned activities.
- Be selective of your food choices. A healthy diet will support optimal growth and development. Diet should be low fat and more of fruits and vegetables. Bayaga adds that adequate fluids also encouraged but they must not be sweetened and carbonated.
- Don’t follow fad diets.
- Don’t pressure your kids. Dra. Cainghug says that a lot of Filipino parents pressure their kids negatively about their body weights such as being verbally abusive to them in an attempt to make them lose weight. This will foster depression, anxiety and a possible eating disorder in the child.
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s well-being. We must take note of these important considerations when helping our kids manage their weight.
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