The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 23, 2000

When chubby isnít cute
By Anup Deb Nath

NOTHING is cuter than a toddler or baby with chubby cheeks, and dimples in his hands and feet. The chubbier they are as babies the cuter they look but unfortunately things change when they grow up. The fat cheeks and the chubby frame that looks so adorable on little children donít look aooealing on older people or even on slightly older children.

Many parents do not even notice the transition of their child from an adorable toddler to an overweight ten year old. It is only when readymade clothes do not fit the child or the child is teased by other children, do the parents realise that their child is overweight.

Many parents feel that it is a case of puppy fat and as the child grows, the fat will vanish. In some cases this does happen and often a cute and chubby baby grows into a slim and healthy child. Then there are those cases where this doesnít happen and the chubby baby continues to grow into an overweight child and often onto an obese adult.

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Exercise done regularly and correctly can help your child in many ways other than weight lossMany parents do not know how much of their babyís fat will go away when it grows up and how much will stay. Hence they donít know when to start worrying about their baby becoming an overweight child. There is really no distinguishing mark that can tell parents whether their child will grow up to be overweight and though there are some signs they can be alert to.

In many cases weight is a hereditary problem. If both the parents are somewhat overweight then the chances of the child being overweight as well, multiply. Eating habits can also indicate whether a toddler will grow up to be overweight.

If your child is excessively fond of food, particularly the wrong type, his/her chances of being overweight become greater. A diet which is composed largely of junk food or fast food such as chips, burgers, pizzas and colas, can mean trouble later on. As most children like to eat junk food, there is no need to be excessively strict and delete it totally from their diet but children who will not eat anything else are likely to be overweight.

How active is your child? If your child is happiest in front of the television for the better part of the day and outdoor activity is alien to him then he is at a greater risk of being overweight once he is older. Many children either shun physical activity or do not get the place and time for it. Also as the easiest entertainment is offered by the television most children tend to succumb to this temptation. What is the average height of the parents? If both parents are short the chances of their child being short are greater. Even the slightest extra weight will show more on a shorter child than on a taller one.

The answer to keeping your overweight child within acceptable weight limits is to ensure that he does some physical activity. Television viewing should not be stopped but outdoor activity should be encouraged. Let your child join swimming, go cycling or learn how to skate. Girls who love to dance can also use this as the perfect way to have fun while they lose weight and become fit.

Though many schools do offer sport facilities, children tend not to take these seriously. Many children complain of aches and pains to escape the rigors of exercise.

Children who participate in physical activities in school need less exercise later in the day. Also exercise done regularly and correctly can help your child in many other ways apart from simple weight loss. Better health, improved concentration and in some cases a gain in height and a better posture are some of the benefits that exercise can give your offspring.

Try not to stop your child from eating what he or she loves. Banning their favourite food is not the solution to any problem. Also children need sugar and fat along with all the other food groups to grow. Putting children on an excessively strict diet which does not include fat or sugar will actually do your little one more harm than good in the long run. It is best to balance the food they enjoy with food they need.

This feature was published on July 16, 2000