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Many concerned parents find their way to the gym as a final resort in search of solutions for the excessive weight gain in their children. I often find it strange that a doctor has to actually tell them that their child is overweight or obese and in need of immediate intervention.

While kids may look cute – fat and chubby – in the formative years, this is actually setting a precedent for them in the years to follow. I also understand that in our culture, we often show love and care in the form of food. Additionally, with incredibly busy lifestyles and high level of engagement with technology, we find it easier to resort to packed and processed foods which are easily available in a multitude of options. While your child may grow up developing a taste for chips, colas, ice cream and fast food, is it really providing him/her the nutrition to grow and develop normally.

I also see more kids spending their free time in front of a screen – television, tab or mobile – rather than playing outdoors and exploring nature. Once again, it’s a matter of convenience of the parent. Parents are too exhausted or have little patience to spend the time outdoors monitoring their kids play outside or engaging with them. Kids who are bored, stressed and depressed also tend to eat more to cope with negative emotions. In such circumstances, it should not then surprise you that your child is overweight and unhealthy. And that you have actually granted your child a lifetime disorder.

As harsh as it may sound, your children are only replicating what you have taught them. Parental influence shapes your child’s eating patterns. Most kids eat what their parents buy for them, so healthy eating starts with you.
When kids struggle with excessive weight, they also have a high risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep disorders, joint pains, emotional vulnerabilities and low self esteem.

To ensure that your child is healthy, please provide them nutritious and well balanced home cooked meals. Ensure that they eat and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy. Children must be taught to appreciate food and to eat at regular meal times in a nice quiet environment that allows them to enjoy the food. Teach them to listen to and understand their bodies so that they know how to differentiate thirst from hunger.

Physical activity and exercise is a must at any age. Ensure that your kids are physically active and exercise appropriate to their age. Encourage them to take up a sport. Create family activities that are based on the outdoors – cycling, hiking, walking, swimming, etc.

Cut down on screen time. Your kids will thank you for it. Small changes like this can go far in preventing childhood obesity. When your children are in front of the screen, they are likely to be exposed to a lot of food marketing that is not necessarily good for them and induces cravings and hunger for high sugar and processed foods that are not healthy for them. A lot of kids also tend to mindlessly snack when glued to the screen.

Parents can help children make positive changes to their diet, physical activity and emotions by setting positive examples. Please know and understand that food is powerful; it has the potential to heal and to cause sickness. The choice is ultimately yours.

Sandesh Palungwa Limbu is a certified professional fitness instructor, founder of RAGE Fitness, and also specialises in mixed martial arts. For answers to your fitness queries, write to him at ragefitness@live.com