Prevention of obesity among children can be possible, an eminent obesity expert has said, by helping them with their eating habits and building a healthy body image.
According to Edward Abramson, PhD and professor emeritus at California State University, parents can ward off obesity by getting their children to eat better food and exercise.
Dr. Abramson said childhood obesity has increased fourfold in the last 40 years, which may make today's children to become the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Speaking at the American Psychological Associations' 117th Annual Convention, the expert said that in the last decade, "we've seen a [tenfold] increase in Type-2 diabetes and psychological and social consequences, such as prejudice, rejection, discrimination and low self-esteem in children...More than 60 percent of overweight children have one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 20 percent have two or more risk factors."
Abramson said, "emotional eating" or eating when one is not hungry may trigger off obesity.
"This can lead to a weight problem or an eating disorder," he added. "Parents' attitudes and behaviours also have an influence on children's eating, and mothers more than fathers affect children's eating habits and body image."
He noted that multiple factors contribute to a mother's concern for her child's weight problems.
"For example, there is evidence that minority parents (e.g., African-American, Hispanic) are less concerned about their children's weight.... Often, when a mother is struggling with her own weight, she becomes more involved in regulating her daughter's eating. In general, mothers are more concerned than fathers about their child's weight, especially their daughter's, and are more likely to restrict foods," the expert added.
According to Abramson children are genetically coded with a tongue for sweet and salty tastes.
"For these children, it may take several repetitions (10 or more) to have a child try a new food, but parents should retreat gracefully and try again another day rather than get into a battle of wills when the child refuses a food," he said.
He also spelled out a way to get children to try out new and healthy foods.
"If the child is in the kitchen cooking with Mom or Dad, it's unlikely that he/she will refuse the food that they've helped prepare, " he added.
Abramson pointed out that physical activity could prevent children to gain extra flab even if there is a familial tendency to gain weight.