Ask The Expert: my child is obese
Q I took my child to the GP due to a chest infection and as part of the examination he weighed my son and indicated that he thought he was overweight and that I should take steps to address this. I was a bit annoyed because I had not taken my son to see him for an assessment of his weight. However, I see his point that he might be thinking of my son’s well-being. To be honest I know I am quite overweight myself and I think he was intimating this also. I suppose hearing all the campaign ads on TV I am worried about the problem for my son and I don’t want him to have health problems. Also, I am not totally sure where we are going wrong. He does like his food and treats but I did not think he ate much more than other kids of his age. Also, I don’t want him to make him feel self-conscious or feel bad about being fat.
A Being overweight is a very sensitive issue and getting information that you might be overweight can be difficult to hear. This is even the case if this information comes from a health professional who has a responsibility to give people feedback about their health. It can feel much worse to get this news about your own child because as a parent you can feel to blame for your child being overweight and that it somehow it reflects on your parenting. However, it is good that you get this information earlier rather than later so you can take steps to address it.
Childhood obesity is a growing problem that predicts serious future health problems unless it is changed. Eating and exercise habits can become established in early childhood and these can be harder to change when children are older. In Ireland we are facing an almost epidemic increase in obesity rates in recent years. The Growing Up in Ireland study in 2011showed that almost 20 per cent of nine-year-olds were overweight and a further 7 per cent obese – these are alarming rates.
You are also not alone in being surprised by the fact that your son might be overweight. As a culture we have become out of touch about what being normal weight is, as so many of our peers are overweight that it has almost become normal. Collectively, our dietary habits have deteriorated, our portion sizes have increased and our levels of physical activity have decreased. You can easily see this in the changing eating habits of children. Whereas in the past, sugary drinks, chocolate and crisps were rarely consumed by children, now they are almost daily habits for some. In addition, children are walking less and been driven places more and engaging more in passive activities such as computer games and less in physical activities such as sport or even walking. These changes have crept in slowly over the years but are now habitual in many homes.