In Summary

Health. Ensure to keep your child active in order to obesity at bay, writes Zuurah Karungi

Obesity is the state of being grossly fat or over weight. This is currently a common problem in Uganda, especially in urban centres. According to World Health Organisation, 41million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2016. And more than 340 million children and adolescents aged five to 19years were overweight or obese in 2016.

Inactive lifestyle
Dr Chirag Kotecha, a specialist at Avane Cosmetic Clinique and Medispa, attributes this surge to the increasing sedentary lifestyle. Dr Kotecha says it is not surprising to see many obese children these days and they are at risk of a number of medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, early heart disease, diabetes, bone problems as well as skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infections and acne.
“It is sad that development brings about these negatives. In the past, children actively played outdoors with their friends from dawn to sunset. This way, they would exercise and shed some calories. Today, children are busy playing video games, watching TV, and chatting on social media meaning that they are less active,” he explains, adding that redundancy leaves children inactive thus gaining weight.

multi-factorial causes
Some children inherit obesity from their parents. However, it is rarely due to medical problems such as hormonal imbalance.
“This can be ruled out by consulting a pediatrician if one undergoes some blood tests.”
Sarah Kawidi, a parent, notes that her child became obese due to over eating.
“She had big portions of food almost every hour, at 12 years, my daughter weighed 65kg. She could hardly walk and fell sick occasionally,” says Kawidi. She says she had to put her daughter on diet and compulsory walking for 30 minutes every evening.

How to treat obesity
Dr Kotecha notes that not every child born to obese parents, or those with overweight siblings, will become obese. This is dependent on shared family eating habits due to the lack of physical activity.
He notes that obesity can be prevented through a healthy balanced diet which consists of fruit, vegetables, minimal fried food intake, plenty of water and organic foods such as bananas, and sweet potatoes.
In addition, he says people should avoid the so-called western style-feeding packed with sugary foods, drinks, fried snacks and processed meats.

Outdoor play
“Statistics show that the average child spends more than three to four hours per day watching TV or playing video, games, a habit that makes them prone to obesity,” he notes.
To help reduce the burden of obesity in children, Kotecha notes that it is important that parents and family are supportive.
“Do not sideline your child because they are obese as this will just compound the matter reduce their level of self confidence, leading to depression and in extreme cases suicidal attempts,”Dr Kotecha advises.

Be supportive
He advises families with obese children should focus on gradually changing their physical activity and eating habits.
By involving the entire family, everyone is taught healthy habits and the overweight child does not feel singled out.