Week 1

As a weight-loss surgeon by profession, and mother of two children, Dr Sally Norton is very concerned by the rising levels of obesity amongst kids. Over the next two weeks she will share some worrying statistics as well as some tips for helping us to help our kids survive the obesity epidemic unscathed.

Did you know….

  • In UK, one in five children age 10-11 are obese and one in three are overweight or obese.
  • 18% of 12-19 year olds in US are obese.
  • Over half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviours such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • 80% of 10 year olds were afraid of being fat.
  • In a survey of 185 US female college students, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.

Our children and teenagers are under huge pressure from the unscrupulous side of the food industry, from peers, from advertising agencies and from the changing environment, which does little to encourage healthy behaviour – convenience being the order of the day. They are destined to a high rate of obesity and associated illnesses. Very sad.

With the pressure our girls (and increasingly, boys) are also under to match the celebrity image of ‘body-beautiful’, it is only going to get worse. One study showed that 47% of US girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures. We need to stress to our children that it is normal for body shape to fluctuate during the teeenage, hormonal onslaughts (or at any time in life) and they shouldn’t be panicked into dieting – 50% of dieting behaviour starts in teenage years, but we know it leads to weight gain in the long-term. We also need to ensure that they are more focused on staying fit and healthy and happy than worrying about whether their body fits the stereotypical view of perfection.

At the same time, we need to make sure that food and weight don’t become a major issue, causing anxiety and abnormal behaviour to prevent weight gain. No wonder parenting is such a challenge!

We need to set the right foundations…

The latest research out of the States shows that as children move from toddlers to teens the quality of the food they eat decreases.  If we can instill good eating habits in younger children it will set them up for a lifetime of healthy food choices.

However, if we, as adults, go too far the other way and have unhealthy behaviour such as yo-yo dieting or an obsession with the weighing scales, we will pass this anxiety on to our kids – so we need to ensure our behaviour is as healthy as it can be.

Next week I will share my thoughts on how we can protect our children from the risks associated with obesity. Not just helping them to eat healthily, but also other ways that science has shown can help with weight control and keeping fit and well.

Dr Sally Norton, Consultant Weight-Loss expert and founder of Vavista.com – Lose weight …Live life …DIET-FREE! gives her advice, based on years of research around weight-loss and dieting….