A growing problem

Obesity has some serious health and psychological consequences

Obesity has become a serious problem in Thailand, both in children and adults

According to 2008 statistics, 15% of kindergarten and primary school children are obese, and that figure is increasing every year.

Obesity is harmful, both physically and emotionally. It can lead to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and breathing difficulties during sleep.

As a result, people may feel tired during the day and lose concentration due to the low oxygen levels in the blood.

This can lead to educational problems, such as slow learning and poor grades.

Being plump is a constraint for children as they develop particular social skills because they lack deftness in movement.

Consequently, they resort to sedentary activities such as reading cartoons, playing computer games or watching TV instead, which isolates them from their friends.

Sometimes obese children often become a "freak" among friends. This might not sound serious but can seriously impact kids who are mentally weak. They could become anxious and depressed.

Subsequently, they will engage only in activities that require less movement which will make them become more obese over time.

There are many techniques for weight controls but the most permanently effective and safe ways involve diet and exercise.

Everyone is well aware of these facts but it is rather a tall order since it virtually needs unwavering determination and discipline in adjusting one's lifestyle.

In addition, this must be done on a regular basis. Adolescents who tend to act emotionally rather than analyse things logically find it hard to patiently wait for positive outcomes, so they opt for other ways.

Their body shapes definitely influence their confidence. Many base their own worth on this, fearing they may not look good or can't attract anyone.

For these reasons they might end up choosing an easy weight-loss technique, such as taking anti-obesity drugs, even though they realise the drugs can have an adverse effect on their health.

Before our children fall victim and slaves to anti-obesity drugs, we must know that some drugs are more dangerous to our children.

We must provide our kids with a protective mental shield in order to prevent them from taking the wrong path, which means that we need to inculcate children to value their self-esteem and to be satisfied with what they have or who they are.

For example, if a daughter weighs 50kg but she keeps saying that she is too fat and wants to be thinner, parents should point out other physical advantages or distinctive points she possesses.

We can tell them that obese children can get good grades at school if they are diligent.

Stimulating children to be aware of their own self value will make them happy with themselves.

To help children and adolescents cope with obesity more effectively requires cooperation from everyone, starting with the family as that main concerned group.

Here are some suggestions that parents can follow

1. Parents with obese children should try to admire and encourage them to go on developing their abilities in order to convince them that outer appearances are not the only indicator of a person's values.

2. Parents should consider or ask themselves the following questions: Do you prepare too much food or snacks for your children? Do you eat all the time? Do you let children choose high fat snacks as seen in TV ads instead of teaching them to select healthy, nutritious foods? Do you exercise regularly? Do you ever take your children to go and work-out with you?

Parents should first start doing all the above to be good role models for their children.

3. Children who are worried about their shape usually have an unstable basic mental foundation and often need acceptance from outside. When they feel much more confident, they will be less susceptible to external influences and do not fall victim to anti-obesity drugs easily.

We can take note of this fact. Why and how do children manage to obtain information about drugs and buy them for themselves? This means parents should stay closer to their children and dedicate time to talk openly with them in order to build good relationships among members of the family.

4. Parents must help children find appropriate guidelines in solving problems. Parents have to adjust their lifestyle as a role model in controlling weight and persuade children to follow suit. This will make it easier for the children to change their behaviour accordingly.

5. Set clear goals such as how much we want to reduce weight and how long the mission should last. It should be a realistic one over a short period of time, not a difficult thing. The aim is to make children proud of their initial success and feel they want to go ahead.

6. Set concrete rules, such as restrictions on food and numbers of meals per day, and make a daily exercise plan. Obese children must follow all the strategies strictly and continuously.

7. Reward your children when they accomplish a goal. And if the children don't succeed, the parents should not appear desperate. That might cause the child dismay and they may give up their resolutions.


BangkokPost, myfamily October 21-27 2010   
By Dr Angkana Unyamanee is a psychiatrist at Manarom Hospital