By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Yes, we get it, children with obesity are at risk for associated complications. But what are the factors that contribute to obesity?
Some environmental factors need to be considered: having one obese parent increases the risk of obesity by two to threefold and up to 15-fold if both parents are obese. Other considerations include ethnicity and income. It is totally not surprising to find more fast food chains and less farmers markets in low income neighborhood. It is a very basic assumption that fast foods are loaded with high caloric food, fried, high sodium, too much sugar and tons of additives to preserve them. Along the same line, for working parents, lack of family mealtime stands out as a risk factor. Children might not be supervised to have healthy food choices. This is a serious consideration when assessing for possible contributing factors for obesity.
Children have not been taught how to read labels to discern how much sugar is in their food choices. Sweet beverages are readily abundant; punch, Coke, chocolate and all kinds of sugarcontaining beverages. Unless they are exposed to the concept of counting sugar content, they would be consuming more calorie that they could expand.
Another key point on the topic of food is portion control: just traveling abroad, we notice that we, in America, serve huge portions than our European counterparts. A croissant here is 3 times the size in France. We probably stress quantity than quality. The idea of portion control needs to start in childhood. We need to learn to say :“I am full” and stop.
Lack of space to exercise, not able to sign up for a gym, and unsafe neighborhood are reasons that these children from low income families are more home bound with physical inactivity. The availability of sidewalks and playgrounds is less prevalent in low income neighbors. We all know exercise is an integral part of keeping us healthier. Coupled with inactivity is more screen time, like my office mate lamented: “look at my COVID fat!” (Hers is from being lockdown during the COVID season.) But these kids in the poor neighborhood literally are lockdown everyday – it is unsafe to walk the street outside the home.
Finally consider our genetic makeup: my dad was always tall and slender; weight had never been an issue with him. Whereas we have seen the whole family is on the plump side. Hence it is important to be aware of our family and the genetic factors that might play a part in developing obesity. At times I feel like even when I inhale air, I gain weight. This echoes the feeling that obesity does run in the family. Being vigilant of our genetic makeup, our environment, our food choices and exercise are areas to consider as the firs time to controlling obesity.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: examine the above factors and see if you are at risk for obesity.
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