According to the British Medical Journal, Malaysia is the most obese country in Asia with an obesity rate of more than 45.3%. When it comes to the topic of obesity, people tends to only think of adults but not children, however, the rate of obesity in children is increasing rapidly in recent years and we should do something to stop it before it gets worse.
Overweight children have high possibilities of growing into overweight adolescents and adults, therefore putting them at high risk of developing long term diseases such as diabetes, asthma, sleeping disorders and heart diseases in later life.
While a lot of people blame their genes, more than 90% of obesity is actually caused by unhealthy dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle and can be prevented.
How do I know if my child is overweight?
It is recommended to use Body Mass Index (BMI) to screen for overweight and obesity for children and teens between the age of 2 to 18. The method of calculating BMI is the same for adults and children, however, the meaning of number differs between age.
You could talk to your paediatrician for detailed diagnosis or click here to determine whether your child has a healthy weight.
How can I help or prevent my child from being overweight?
Since lack of physical activities and bad dietary habits are the main reasons leading to obesity, parents play important roles in helping children to maintain a healthy weight. Below are a few guidelines to follow:
- Plan healthy meals and physical activities for the family
It is important to plan healthy meals ahead to decrease the possibilities of eating out and also make children adapt to a healthy eating habit and preference for healthy snacks. Family activity is a good way to bond family relationships and increase physical activities.
- Avoid weight talk and take care of your child’s need
Overweight children often have lower self-esteem so make sure you choose physical activities that will not make them feel uncomfortable and talk about positive body image instead of negative comments which might hurt them emotionally.
- Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding has shown to be having positive effect on reducing the risks of obesity in children. Exclusive breastfeeding (Feeding only human milk) is recommended for infant up to 6 months, and continue breastfeeding up to 2 years old.
- Limit their screen time on TV or other technology gadgets to prevent them from sitting down for a long period of time.
Talk to a nutritionist, dietitian or your paediatrician for more guidance on solving childhood obesity problems.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Star, Malaysia
Childhood Obesity Foundation
Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity