More and more children are becoming obese and this is becoming a national concern. How do you get your kid to lose those extra kilos healthily, without making her feel self-conscious and insecure?
- YY Low, health psychologist and principal weight management consultant at Hadara Aesthetics Boutique
- Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre
- Rebecca Goh, education specialist at Kinderland
You used to coo over your child’s chubby cheeks but now that she’s older, you notice she’s become too pudgy for her age. It’s a problem that affects 28% children in Malaysia, according to the 2013 studies from Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM).
Childhood obesity is no small matter. “It increases a child’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and sleep apnea,” shares YY Low, a health psychologist who has counselled children with weight issues. “It can also cause psychosocial issues like low self-esteem, which in turn affects their health and quality of life.”
Is she overweight or just big-boned?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is generally a good yardstick of how much body fat a person has. In children, BMI is age- and gender-specific as the amount of body fat they have changes as they grow older, says YY.
You can easily calculate your child’s BMI online, with her height and weight at Nutrition Society of Malaysia’s website, which can be found at http://www.nutriweb.org.my/index.php?bmi-calculator. “A child is considered overweight if her weight places her above the 97th percentile on the chart,” notes Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre.
Uh-oh, my child is indeed overweight. How do I tell her tactfully?
Be understanding, encouraging and supportive. “Avoid words and labels that will make her feel conscious about her weight or appearance. Also, be realistic about her weight loss and avoid making comparisons with other children, as this will affect her self-esteem. Ultimately, it is important for your child to maintain a healthy body image, and know that she is unconditionally loved and accepted by you,” says YY.