Currently, the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents is one of the most serious concerns in Public Health. The popular preconceived notion that overweight will disappear when the child reaches adulthood has been dismissed as a myth. On the contrary, the most probable outcome would be that the overweight will get worse along with the complications in adult’s physical and mental health. Estimations indicated that up to 80 % of overweight adolescents will become obese adults.
Obesity is clearly perceived as a negative trait in our society. Overweight children tend to be rejected by their peers and usually end up having fewer friends and to have more isolated and peripheral relationships. They are less skillful in sports and exhibit a more passive attitude leading to a low self-steam. Additionally, they tend to react more to external stimuli to eat rather than to their own appetite. They look less healthy and are more prone to personal accidents.
Research conducted by Dr. Jene Wardle (2006) at the The University College of London involving 5.863 children, during the transition period from childhood to adolescence, found that 25 % of all children that were overweight before reaching 11 years old, continued to be overweight at 16-year old and showed no sign of losing the extra pounds. The results show clearly that an overweight child will have a greater probability of being an obese adult later on. Therefore, the best strategy to prevent adult obesity would be to treat obese children as early as possible by adopting healthier dietary habits and increasing physical activity.
Being overweight (or obese) is defined as an abnormal accumulation of body fat as a result of an excessive intake of calories coupled with an insufficient energy expenditure due to lack of physical activity and not necessarily associated to hormonal or genetic factors.
The net effect of consuming excessive calories are evident. Even so if they are derived from carbohydrates and fat compared to protein calories. The first two are readily stored as fat. Thus, one way of balancing your diet and avoid being overweight will be to reduce the amount of carbs and fat in your diet while increasing the amount of protein sources.
Studies by Albert Bandura, a well-known scientist for his Social Learning Theory, at Stanford University show that human behavior is acquired by mimicking a role model. This learning process is more effective if the model is more prestigious and credible. One of the most common role models are the parents. Dietary and exercise habits are strongly influenced by those life experiences during childhood.
- Children learn the ability to decide what to eat and how much. Parents often underestimate such self-regulating skills in their children.
- Parent’s behavior has a direct effect on their children’s weight because they have similar complexion and develop similar attitudes toward food.
- Parents should buy fruits and vegetables and keep them available at home at all time. These fruits and groceries should be part of daily menus to be consumed for all family members.
- Parents should teach children about the different food groups and serving sizes according to their nutrient compositions.
We realize it is not easy for parents to change their dietary habits but preventing overweight is a serious matter and worths all efforts if you want your children to have a healthy and satisfactory social life once they become adults.