Childhood and obesity

Obesity and excessive weight gain have become serious issues in present times as the proportion of affected youth has tripled in the last 30 years as reported by the Government of Canada (2019).

This information alone highlights the importance of addressing this issue. The following are some of the causes associated with obesity and excessive weight gain:
  • Diet
  • Inactivity and lack of physical activity
  • Genetic factors
  • Health issues
  • Lack of sleep

It goes without saying that the consequences linked to this issue are substantial, both on one’s physical health and psychological and socio-emotional wellbeing.
  • Physical health: These children are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, musculoskeletal diseases and respiratory diseases when they reach adulthood.
  • Psychological and socio-emotional wellbeing: These children are at higher risk of isolation due to peer rejection and mockery, depression, as well as developing a low self-esteem and a negative perception of their body

The psychological consequences of obesity appear generally faster than those related to one’s physical health. Indeed, mockery and peer comments regarding their physical appearance can mark the child and negatively impact his self-esteem, both in the short and long term. It is also essential to highlight the importance of peer acceptance as well as the looks given by peers in a child’s development of identity and self-esteem. Being rejected and mocked or hearing unflattering comments can have serious repercussions on the development of a healthy self-perception.

If obesity and excessive weight gain potentially go hand-in-hand with nutrition, it is not recommended to put a child on a diet so as not to cause any nutritional deficiencies or impact their growth. Furthermore, refraining a child from eating can impact the relationship he has with his parents, his self-esteem and his relationship with food (excessive preoccupation, hiding to eat, etc.). Before attempting strategies to help the child achieve a healthy weight, it is advisable to consult a family doctor first in order to be better equipped and guided in the process, and to verify any possible underlying medical or hereditary conditions that could explain the child’s obesity or weight excess.

Some interventions are recommended in order to develop the child’s self-esteem and to promote a healthy relationship with food:
  • Do not ban certain types of food, but do limit the quantities;
  • Promote varied food types at every meal;
  • Create a predictable and stable meal and snack schedule;
  • Limit the distractions during meals;
  • Avoid rewarding or punishing a child with food;
  • Promote physical activity by engaging yourself in activities that appeal to your child;
  • Teach your child that beauty does not equal a number on the scale
  • Bring positivity by highlighting your child’s strengths, qualities and everything you appreciate in him to help the child develop a positive image of himself, independent of his weight

In short, it is essential to address this issue in order to ensure the healthiest possible physical, psychological and social development of children. The family doctor is a precious ally alongside nutritionists, psychologists and psychoeducators. For more information, do not hesitate to contact the Family and School Services department at 450 687-6888 ext. 113

*The use of the pronoun “he” is meant to alleviate the reading of this document.


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