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What Causes Childhood Obesity? | Affinity Health

This World Obesity Day, Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, weighs in on healthy lifestyles and childhood obesity. 


Across South Africa, childhood obesity is a big concern – and it’s growing bigger.


“While genes have a large impact on how our bodies function at a cellular level, childhood obesity is not just a result of genes. Bad diet and lifestyle choices play a huge part in the global childhood obesity problem,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


How Does Childhood Obesity Affect South Africa?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, more than 14% of South African primary school students are overweight. If current obesity rates continue, 3.91 million schoolchildren would be overweight or obese by 2025.


“It is critical to foster a strong family culture of health and wellbeing in the home, both physically and emotionally. Good eating habits encouraged from a young age can make the world of difference. 


Things like encouraging your children to choose water over fizzy or fruit juices, fruits over sweets, and active play outside over watching TV or playing computer games are all good examples,” adds Hewlett.      


What Is Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity is defined as children with a body mass index (BMI) equal to or higher than 95 percent of their peers. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a metric often used by dieticians to determine one’s “weight status”. A child’s BMI is calculated based on your child’s height and weight, combined with their gender and age.


Obesity is a severe health risk for children. Obese children are more than just overweight; they are at risk for various chronic health issues that can persist into adulthood, some of which can be life-threatening. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and asthma are only a few of the most serious dangers.


According to research, children who achieve a healthy weight are fitter, healthier, more able to learn, and more self-confident. They are also less likely to be bullied and have low self-esteem.


A poor diet high in fat or sugar with few nutrients might cause children to acquire weight quickly. Fast food, chocolates and sweets, and soft drinks are common offenders, while frozen dinners, salty snacks, and canned foods can also lead to unhealthy weight gain. 


Another factor of childhood obesity is a lack of physical activity. When children of all ages are less active, they tend to acquire weight. Exercise burns calories and aids in the maintenance of a healthy weight. Children who are not encouraged to be physically active may be less likely to burn extra calories through sports, playground time, or other forms of physical activity.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least one hour of exercise per day. 


Some children may develop obesity because of psychological difficulties. This is often termed as “emotional eating”. Children, tweens, and teenagers who are anxious, lonely, stressed, worried, or unhappy may turn to food for comfort.  


If this is the case, your child may need to see a healthcare provider who can assist in determining why your child is comfort eating and provide alternative ways to help your child cope. 

Learn More: The Importance of Good Nutrition in Early Childhood

How To Help Your Child Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle 

Affinity Health shares some health tips which can help parents ensure their children maintain a healthy lifestyle: 

  • Keep junk food out of the house. If your child feels a little hungry before mealtime, give them a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, slice of whole-wheat bread, or a hard-boiled egg. These snacks will provide your child with loads of nutrients without loads of calories.
  • Because many children mimic what their parents do, it is critical to set a positive example, especially when it comes to eating habits. If your child sees you eating healthy all the time, they are more likely to do the same.
  • Dedicate some time planning and preparing as many of your child’s daily meals as possible.
  • Limit meals eat out at restaurants and fast-food outlets and ensure that if you do dine out your child keeps to child-sized portions.
  • Being hydrated is essential for burning fat from all the food your child consumes, so encourage your child to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Adding more fat-burning foods to your child’s diet can also help boost their energy level, and it is also a natural way to help prevent obesity. Salmon, Greek yoghurt, broccoli, nuts, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables, and coconut oil are all fat-burning foods.
  • Regular exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss as it helps your child burn calories. 

Affinity Junior provides affordable healthcare for your children – Keeping the most important people in your life healthy and happy! Affinity Junior will provide your children with unlimited, managed doctor consultations, medication, and hospitalisation, depending on the plan chosen. The unique feature of the Affinity Junior plan is that the policy insures only your children.

For more information on Affinity Junior, click here.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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