Is my kid too fat?

Are you facing up to the fact that your child is, erm, fat? What should you do about it?

Kids-Is-my-child-too-fat

Who doesn’t love chubby babies, with those adorable rolls of fat on their arms and thighs? While puppy fat on babies is endearing, those bits of blubber can turn into a health concern if they persist. Carrying extra weight can put your child at risk for a whole host of health problems later in life.

The number of overweight children in Singapore has been on the rise. According to the Ministry of Education, obesity in children was 10 per cent in 2000. In 2013, this number rose to 11 per cent, and then 12 per cent in 2014.

But sometimes, even parents are unable to see that their own children are overweight, according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice. Says mum of two Mabel Lee, “No one likes to hear that their child is fat. And honestly, if you see the child every day, it’s hard to notice any gradual weight gain.”

Determine if your child is overweight

To find out whether your child has weight problems, look at the charts in his health booklet, says Kinder Clinic paediatrician Dr Vera Oh.

“Refer to your child’s health booklet for the percentile charts and the weight for height charts. There are also BMI charts available online that will give you an idea of what percentile your child is on,” she adds.

The higher the percentile number, the bigger your child is compared to other children his age. So, if your 5-year-old is in the 80th percentile for weight, it simply means that 80 per cent of 5-year-old boys weigh the same as, or less than your child, and 20 per cent weigh more.

Being overweight puts your child at a higher risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Do note that while percentile charts don’t necessarily point to a problem, it gives you an idea as to how heavy your child is compared to his peers. If you see a sharp rise in your offspring’s position on the chart, check with a doctor if you need to improve his eating habits and activity levels.

Says Geraldine Yeo, who has a 5-year-old son, “I never saw my son as overweight, because seeing him every day, you don’t really see the increase. But the school noted that he had climbed from the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile in a short time, so there were red flags.”

While genes do influence your child’s weight, it is only one part of the equation. Junior can still maintain a healthy weight with the right diet and exercise.

Health risks

So, why worry if your child is overweight? For starters, they are more likely to develop serious illnesses in adulthood. Says Dr Oh, “Being overweight puts your child at a higher risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Diabetes rates in Singapore have risen, from 8.6 per cent of the population in 1992, to 11.3 per cent in 2010. Dr Oh notes, “If there’s a family history of diabetes, then the risk is higher. In fact, just being Asian, there’s a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

Other weight-related health conditions include heart disease, asthma and even joint pain in early adulthood. This is because in heavy people, their hearts and bodies have to work harder in order to carry the weight, especially when they take part in physical activities.

Being overweight as a child can also take an emotional toll. Overweight children are often shy about how they look, as other kids may tease and exclude them from certain activities. This can lead to low self-esteem and negative body images.

For ways to combat obesity, read on…