I went on to BBC 5 Live Sunday Breakfast last week to give a parent’s perspective on the findings from the report completed by Dr Charlotte Hardman (University of Liverpool) and Dr. Prabeetha Patalay (University College of London). Links were found between anxiety, depression and obesity in children as young as 7. Dr Hardman said that there were instances where socio-economic disadvantage was responsible but it was not the only reason. I believe cultural beliefs play a part, sometimes. I was born in the 70’s and raised in the 80’s. Then, it was believed that ‘chubby’ babies were healthy. As a result, my weaning began with variety of porridges (flour, arrowroot, custard). They probably had low nutritional value and I piled on the pounds. While it’s true some parents can’t see that their child(ren) is over-weight, I’m not convinced additional weight monitoring would help reduce childhood obesity.
I remember having extra portions, as a child. At school, I was teased about my weight. I hated running, reading was what I preferred. While, at home, I had chores such scouting for and collecting water for the family, carrying the market bags on weekends and helping to tidy the family home. All my chores were laborious. By age 11 with the inclusion of swimming and football, as well as smaller my portions, I lost weight. In my late teens adults would playfully reminisce about my eating habits and size. The teasing and jokes stuck.
I know what it means to be overweight. I would not, to the best of my ability, allow my children to go down the same path. Did I disregard a letter that came home after one of them was weighed and measured, as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, which said the child was overweight? Yes I did. Did I follow-up with a GP appointment for a second opinion? No, I didn’t. One year later both children are getting taller and leaner, as I expected would be the case.
National Child Measurement Programme
Some say weighing children when they start school is too late. Both my children had regular check-ups until roughly age three. Everything was spot on. The both started nursery at age 4.
‘In UK schools, children’s height and weight are measured in reception class (age 4 or 5) and year 6 (age 10 or 11)….Once your child’s BMI has been calculated, they will be in one of four categories:
- healthy weight
- very overweight’
Obesity and emotional problems
Dr. Hardman said it’s more than overeating. My own weight has fluctuated over the years. I enjoy exercise but I also enjoy food. The moment I think ‘I’m going to cut my carbs’ that’s the moment I turn in to a carb monster. Because over-eating can be comfort-eating, we need to be kind. I confess, I’m no stranger to it. I also know that, fat shaming can have the opposite effect. According to Dr Hardman, it’s hard to treat obesity because there could be an underlying mental illness (depression/anxiety).
‘High BMI and mental ill-health go increasingly hand-in-hand to present a combined health risk for children from mid-childhood, according to the findings of a study to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow this week.’
Change for Life
Weight management must be part of a healthy lifestyle regime. I think parents and children would benefit from learning how to make simple changes to improve their mental and physical well-being. Change 4 Life has great ideas and they don’t cost the earth. For the past 2-3 year the kids and I send for their summer challenge and we do them at home on a day when we are not out and about. It’s fun and breaks up the day.
In terms of the mental health, helping children to be emotionally intelligent is a start. They need to understand their feelings and be given tools for coping that don’t include food. For example: talking to a trusted adult, journalling, crafting or kicking a ball about, even taking deep breaths and in a calm space.
They also need to learn the difference between boredom and hunger. Children should know what being full feels like. Eating in front of the tele or while playing a video game tricks the mind into thinking you need more food. Maybe the mind doesn’t register how much food is consumed if the eyes have not paid full attention. Please don’t mistake me for being judgy. My suggestions are based on what I’ve learnt from my own ‘misdemeanours’ and what has worked with my own kids. However, I’m still learning. Now that I’m approaching middle age there are other factors to consider.
Do you worry about your child’s weight? If not, why not? And if you do worry, what are you doing to support them? For that matter, how do you feel about your child(ren) being weigh at school? Comment below.