Teenage Obesity – All About The Silent Killer

Teenage Obesity – All About The Silent Killer

Have you ever found yourself scrambling through the kitchen several times within the same hour in search for something snacky? Don’t worry, you are not the only one. Sometimes we eat more than what we are supposed to and keep eating even though we are not hungry. This situation is commonly referred to as overeating.

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Overeating accumulates unnecessary fat which eventually adds to your weight. This leads to obesity, increasing the risk of health-related problems. Research shows that the number of overweight teenagers has had a significant rise in the past few years.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a medical condition that occurs when one’s body has excessive body fat. It increases the risk of many health diseases, therefore, a condition that should not be ignored. Obesity is often the outcome of overeating or metabolic fluctuations but it is a medical condition that can be prevented.

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Adolescent obesity in India

India is constantly facing the dangers of the increasing rates of obesity among children and adolescents. As per the survey reports of NFHS-3 and NFHS-4, it is seen that the percentage of adolescents and adults aged between 15 and 49  has doubled from 9.3 per cent to 18.6 per cent [1]

Moreover, if seen individually, the prevalence of overweight is up to 24 per cent whereas, for obesity, the prevalence is up to 14 per cent. Though the rate of obesity increment is stagnant since the past few years, the rate of overweight with obesity is constantly increasing [2].

Preventing obesity in teenagers

As mentioned earlier, obesity is a condition that is preventable but one requires support from people in surrounding environments. There are various measures that can be adopted to fight teenage obesity.

Some of the measures are mentioned below:

  • Changing the family’s eating habits- This motivates the teen to eat healthy along with his/her family. Plan out balanced meals for each day of the week and follow it.
  • Encourage physical activities- Persuade your child to get involved in physical activities like outdoor games. If this becomes a regular practice, the weight is slowly kept in control.
  • Inculcate good habits- Teach the kids good eating habits from the beginning. Teach them to eat slowly and only when they are hungry.
Change eating habits to fight teenage obesity
Change eating habits to fight teenage obesity
  • Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods with low fat and sugar. 
  • Insist on eating fruits daily. 
  • Reduce time in front of screens to less than 2 hours a day so that the adolescents can participate in more productive activities like pursuing a new hobby or some game. 
  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. 
  • Encourage your children to drink water instead of aerated drinks and sports drinks that are loaded with sugar.

As a teenager, I know that maintaining good health may be a difficult task with the numerous happenings in and around. Here’s what I do:

For a healthy diet, I sit down with my parents and curate a meal plan for the week. I pitch in food ideas while my parents do the same. We come to a mutual agreement with fruits every day and vegetables in every meal except one day-a cheat day. I follow the meal plan and get the nutrients my body requires while enjoying the freedom of foods that I like to eat once in a while.

I explore games that I enjoy playing hence I spend my time learning and engaging in them. Teenagers should try to find activities that they like if they haven’t already and participate in them regularly.

A good TV show is hard to put a limit on. We just keep watching it till we are satisfied or realize that it’s too late. However, we don’t realize that it eats up a lot of our time that can be utilized to do useful things. I have started to plan out the things I have to do in a given day and that by the end of the day, I make sure to finish all the tasks. I prioritize the tasks and finish them accordingly, then I am free to do whatever I want to do.

yoga for teenagers
yoga for teenagers

Causes of teenage Obesity

Obesity can be the outcome of various factors. Some of the factors being:

  • Genetics – Obesity may be hereditary. The tendency of being overweight increases by 25 per cent if either one of the parents is overweight.
  • Metabolic and hormonal factors – Metabolic and hormonal factors affect different people in different ways. They play an important role in determining weight gain.
  • Eating habits and Unhealthy food choices – The market is flooded with a variety of foods which are tasty, loaded with sugars and oils but completely devoid of nutrients. Their marketing strategy is to create advertisements to attract younger audiences. The type of food one eats determines their weight.
  • Lifestyle and behaviour – The type of lifestyle one leads, determines one’s weight. Through, healthy eating habits, adequate exercise, limited screen time and a reasonable amount of sleep, weight gain can be prevented.
Causes of teenage obesity
Causes of teenage obesity

Why is teenage obesity a problem?

Obesity increases the risk of many health-related problems, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and certain types of cancers.

If the curative and preventive steps are not taken in time, obesity will prevail for a longer time span. More the delay in the diagnosis, the more critical obesity-related risk factors become. 

This can result in more severe medical conditions through adulthood. Nowadays, disorders like diabetes and CVDs are found at a much younger age, owing to genetic predisposition and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Health effects of childhood and adolescent obesity

Obesity is a harmful condition that poses threats to one’s health. Some of the effects of obesity are:

  • Diabetes – Obesity is the dominant cause of type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes is known to occur in adults, it has started occurring in children and teenagers as well. Obesity may cause resistance to insulin, which is the hormone that controls blood sugar. As a result, the patient is left with high sugar levels.
  • High blood pressure – With high-fat accumulation in the body, pressure builds up in the arteries by the obstructed blood flow. This results in higher blood pressure which is also a causative factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Joint problems – Obesity increases the stress on joints such as the hips and knees because of the extra weight. This causes various joint problems which may be difficult to treat without weight loss.
  • Psychosocial effects – In a world full of people who are striving to be attractive, being overweight becomes a disadvantage. In schools, obese teenagers may suffer from social exclusion and may even be bullied for their physical appearance. 
Psychological effects
Psychological effects

They may be called names and are often accused of being lazy and weak-willed. This leads to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem which is not healthy for the youth. Furthermore, with less participation in sports and cultural events, their friend circle gets shrunk along with their social lives.

Teenagers have started to become more conscious about social exclusion but this doesn’t eliminate the problem completely.

Treating obesity in teenagers

Treating obesity can be a huge task to conquer. The treatment program should consist of changes in their behaviour. Modifying diets, planning exercises, and good sleep are crucial for treating obesity.

  • Healthy eating – Limit beverages, cut down on fast food, pre-prepared meals, and junk. Eat meals together as a family and be sure to regulate portion sizes. Discourage overeating and dieting or skipping meals.
  • Physical activity – It is important for adolescents to get involved in physical activities as it helps burn calories. Help your teen take part in activities that he/she enjoy so that it does not seem to be a task. Encourage an hour of physical activity per day.
  • Expert’s consultation – It is important to consult a nutrition expert and doctor to listen to what their view is. They can suggest further procedures like clinical or biochemical tests, surgery, etc if weight persists even after lifestyle modifications. However, the surgery does not promise a huge amount of weight loss and it does not eliminate the requirement of a healthy diet and regular physical activities.
  • Family support – Families play an important role in a teenager’s life. Prevent taking about weight to ensure that he/she doesn’t get insulted. Help him/her set and achieve small goals every month. Be sure to praise their efforts so that they feel loved and encouraged to continue working hard.
Eat healthy food and cut down junk food
Eat healthy food and cut down junk food

Facts

  • Childhood obesity can reduce life expectancy by 5 or more years.
  • The Risk for Heart Disease is higher for children with obesity.
  • Overweight children are 52 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma.
  • Given the current numbers of overweight and/or obese infants prevail, the numbers are said to reach 70 million by 2025.

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