Childhood obesity: what is it and what can we do?

What is Childhood Obesity?

Anyone who is carrying too much fat on their body can be classed as overweight, or obese in more extreme cases, and this extra weight can be detrimental to a person’s health if it is not managed and reduced.

Adults can use body mass index (BMI) calculations to see if they are classified as overweight or obese and the World Health Organisation (WHO) provides guidelines based on these calculations.

However, these standard calculations do not work for children, especially young children. This is because age needs to be considered as an important factor when defining weight issues and obesity in young people.
WHO has a general calculation which can be used to define weight and obesity levels for children under 5, which is as follows:
Overweight = weight-for-height greater than 2 standard deviations above WHO Child Growth Standards median.

Obese = weight-for-height greater than 3 standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

The above can be calculated using the WHO child growth standards for children aged under 5 years.

Can We Prevent Obesity?

Having a healthy family lifestyle and teaching your little one healthy habits from the start, will not only help to prevent your child from becoming overweight but will also have positive outcomes for the wellbeing of the whole family. Remember you are your child’s first teacher and their main role-model.

Children will generally only become overweight when the calories and energy that they are absorbing from their food and drink is greater than the amount they are burning.

Any extra energy absorbed but not burned-off is stored as fat, which is why that motivational phrase, ‘Move more, eat less’ makes so much sense! Physical activity and outdoor play will help your child to burn calories and manage their energy levels.

Always offer your child a nutritious, balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, grains & pulses, dairy, meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. For drinks choose water, milk and other low sugar options.

At Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare in NSW, our centres only offer meals and snacks that meet the Australian dietary guidelines and include a variety of food groups rich in carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fat ratios to provide children with all the energy they need for their specific age group. Our staff and educators also plan cooking experiences and sports programs to teach children about healthy eating and physical fitness, while allowing them to be involved in fun hands-on activities.

Preventing obesity and managing excessive weight gain during childhood will mean your child is far less likely to suffer from obesity and the associated health risks in later life.

Is My Child at Risk?

If you’re worried about your child’s weight, or think that they may be obese, it is best to have them assessed by a health professional. They can look at age, height, weight, lifestyle, and any other factors such as medications and genetics, to determine whether or not any changes need to be made.

What’s important to remember is that obesity and its negative effects are reversible, especially in childhood. Work as a family and enjoy eating nutritious healthy meals and doing fun family activities together. There’s nothing to lose, except lbs!