Help, My Child is Fat!

Folake watched with a mixture of fear and embarrassment as her son, Chijioke, tried with obvious difficulty to play with his peers. A group of boys, about seven of them swarmed excitedly around a slide, making hasty steps up the ladder and screaming excitedly as they slid down.

Then it was Chijioke’s turn.

The plastic slide shook dangerously as he made clumsy steps up the ladder. Then he reached the top, swung his legs over with much difficulty and let herself go. Folake almost thought her son made it until there was a loud crack. Her worst fear had been relieved. The slide gave in somewhere at the bottom as some part of it broke off. With tears running down her cheeks, Chijioke went over to his mother, followed by jeers from the other kids.

At the age of nine, he weighed 70kg and his waist was 36 inches thick.

Obesity Around the World
Obesity among children has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. The World Health Organization says that worldwide, an estimated 22 million children under the age of five are overweight.

Research and studies have shown that our children are getting fatter by the day. Many families all over America are struggling to keep the weight of their children within reasonable limits. In the last three decades, obesity in children aged 6 to 11 has more than tripled in the United States. About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese.

A national survey in Spain revealed that 1 out of every 3 children is either overweight or obese. In just ten years (1985-1995), childhood obesity tripled in Australia. Childhood obesity is also extending to developing countries. According to the International Obesity Task Force, in some parts of Africa, more children are affected by obesity than by malnutrition. In 2007, Mexico occupied second place in the world, behind the United States, for childhood obesity. It is said that in Mexico City alone, 70 percent of the children and adolescents are either overweight or obese. While there are no relevant statistics for Nigeria with regards to obesity in children, it cannot be ignored that it is growing at an alarming rate.

Health Risks of Obesity
According to a Pediatrician, Dr Dele Jokotola, “the health risks caused by obesity in children of this generation are more than ever before. If care is not taken, parents would begin to outlive their children.

Obesity comes with a number of health risks that causes serious problems for children. There is an increase in the number of children diagnosed with high blood pressure around the world. High blood pressure in children used to be relatively rare. Looking at historical data, only a small percentage of children have suffered from this disease. Recently, though, these numbers have started to change, and a growing number of young people are diagnosed with hypertension every year.

Obese children as young as 10 have the arteries of 45-year-olds and other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease. Results from a study led by Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children’s Hospital in Kansas City on 70 children aged 10-16 showed that almost all had abnormal cholesterol and many were obese. The kids’ “vascular age” was about 30 years older than their actual age, she found

As the old saying goes, you’re as old as your arteries are,” said Dr. Raghuveer. “This is a wake-up call.

Aside from heart problems, obesity has been linked to diabetes, cancer, renal disorder or hemorrhage. Obesity is a major factor that reduces life expectancy.

Fat persons complain of severe pain in the feet or soles which are crushed under the weight of their heavy bodies. Fat persons also suffer from flat feet. Similarly, weight bearing joints like the ankles, hips and the spinal cord are also strained constantly on account of the heavy weight they have to carry. Consequently, they are susceptible to degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis at a very young age. Fat persons are more prone to varicose veins. Varicose veins are an indication of slow blood circulation. As the cholesterol is generally high in the blood of fat persons, this high cholesterol causes stone formation in the gall bladder.

Also very important are the psychological effects of being overweight. For Chijioke, he has had to change schools twice as a result of bullying and teasing from his colleagues. Playing with his peers has always been a problem as he finds it hard to keep up with their pace during physical activities.

Fat persons are often made targets of fun, gossip and ridicule among friends and in the society. As a result of this, many of them develop an inferiority complex or suffer from other psychological disorders.

So What Causes Obesity in Children
As dangerous as the risks are, obesity among children is on the increase. The question is why are children of this generation fatter than ever?

Monalisa Obuekwe, a teacher and etiquette consultant says that more children eat junk food rather than healthy home-cooked meals, fruits and vegetables.

Some children have breakfast, lunch and dinner in a fast food restaurant,” she said. “In between meals, they take chocolate, soda, biscuits and cake. When this piles up in their body for too long, the resultant effect is an overweight child.

Another teacher, Gbemisola Daniel believes that the increase in obesity among children is due to parent’s neglect of their children’s diet. “Parents of these days are too busy to care about what their children eat. A lot of children are eating processed foods like noodles and canned food which increases their weight.

Schools are not helping either. If you see what some of them offer their children for lunch, you won’t be surprised at their weight. Most of the ones that give the children food don’t give them healthy meals and they don’t encourage the children to eat healthy.

However, Dr Jokotola says that other than unhealthy diet, inactivity among children is a major cause of obesity.

Children of these days don’t exercise,” he said. “Once they come back from school, they plant themselves in front of the TV and stay there till evening. They don’t move their body, they don’t work at home. You see some schools with tiny compounds where there is no opportunity for children to run around and play. The children don’t go to the park either to run around, they don’t run errands. This sort of inactivity causes them to add much weight.

Is Child Obesity the Parent’s Fault?
Who then takes responsibility for obesity in children? Is it the parents? Most often, children start off with having ‘baby fat’, but it doesn’t always disappear.

“You can’t blame the parents. Some children just have fatness in their genes,” says Patricia Uti, a mother of two.

Another parent, Aisha Ahmad, is of the opinion that parents should not be blamed for what their children eat in their absence. “Sometimes, you teach your children good eating habits, but you cannot be responsible for what they do when you’re not around,” she said.

However, some people believe that obesity in children is the fault of the parent. For this group of people, children are supposed to be under their parents’ care, and so everything they do should be monitored.

If we are to be true to ourselves, most cases of childhood obesity is caused by parents who don’t regulate their child’s eating habits,” said Femi Samuel. “If a child is too fat, it is 100% the parents fault. Parents should be held accountable for their child’s eating habits. Some people might deceive themselves and say it’s the genes or baby fat. But if you train your child from a young age to eat healthy, that child will eat healthy for the rest of his or her life.

For Folake, she feels she is to blame for her child’s weight and is very upset about this.

When he was younger, I thought it was just his genes at work. His dad is quite big so I thought he took after him. But he demanded for more and more food, especially chocolate. Sometimes when I look at him, I feel if I had been more resistant to his demands for junk food, he would be slimmer than this. I thought he was still a baby so I indulged her a lot, but his demands haven’t stopped. Now he is on a diet but it’s not working.

So what do you think about the rise in childhood obesity in Nigeria? Are Nigerian parents or the increase in the number of fastfood restaurants in our country to blame? What can we do to change this?

Photo Credit: The Black Sphere

31 Comments on Help, My Child is Fat!
  • onyx December 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Any responsibility for obesity in children lies squarely on the shoulders of their parents. It’s as simple as that.

    As an aside, the editing on BN needs to go up a notch or two. This article should have been properly reviewed prior to posting.

    • jcsgrl December 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      Tnk you oh…I thought I was the only one distracted by the poor editing. BN, ure more than this oh!

    • Tiki December 21, 2011 at 10:26 am

      Amen to that. I am beginning to feel like the Grammar Police.

  • olueh oritsematosan kehinde December 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I think parents are to be blamed for this serious case of obesity,my kid sis who is about 14 yrs old wears a size 16. I, her elder sis wears a size 8. We know that sometimes some ppl are prone to be fat due to genetic inheritance but as a parent when you begin to detect such traits you start applying different counter measures because @ d long run, whatever happens to that child is as a a result of your negligence or your prompt responsible actions. Obesity actually kills,most people don’t know and it also affects a child psychologically because that child is not perceived as normal and not socially accepted by her peers. I think as parents we should start being more responsible for the general health of our children.

  • brianna December 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I agree that its the parents fault,..100%..children are supposed to eat healthy..veggies,vitamins, and the likes..to ensure growth,strong bones & teeth,so watch your childs diet.
    Venting – To me being FAT is the same as when a person refuses to take care of themselves or their appearance,its the same thing as not brushing your teeth everyday,failing to use deodorant every morning,appearing unkempt..i do not feel sorry for fat people at all,..because when they are swallowing those Burgers they are enjoying it not thinking of the after effects….tsk

  • 306omo December 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Their are a lot of Chijioke’s in Nigeria today, mostly in the upper class and middle class who think fast food is the thing of the rich. The rich and the upper middle class are slowly killing themsleves and their children with fast food. I remember visiting Nigeira and yo should see the way people talk about KFC, meanwhile over here, we find KFC to be grosse, i mean nasty, smelling fatty food. Folake, you need to help your child, no body is going to help him for you. start by cooking healthy meals at home, replace chocolate, ice cream and cake for fruits and vegetables, and water, let me play and have fun as a kid, not drive around eating fast food.

  • yemy December 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    The truth is so many factors are the cause of child obesity , bottom line parents use food to make up for love or not having time to spend with their kids due to busy schedule of work and City life.
    The influx of Tv , video games and junk food doesnt make it any better as kids just tend to live sedentary live styles and donot engage in activities to help them burn weight.
    I would suggest that parents endeavour to train the helps and all people who surround their kids when they are at work in healthy food choices for their kids . Healthy menus should be drawn up for the children. Snacking and fizzy drinks should be monitored and supervised,Parents should not allow they kids have so much sugar , cakes, chocolates , sweets and other such things should be given to kids as treats BUT with moderation.
    I think if all parents all put in the effort then there will be less over weight kids in the society.

  • Anon December 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I think apart from the very important point of diet, children are not playing anymore. What I mean is that, nowadays people live in their mansions with high fences. When children play, it is with XBOX or PS3. You do not see children running around playing all those fun physical games with other children. So what do children do when they are indoors all the time? They watch telly, go and facebook and they eat. I think parents need to encourage interaction with other kids in the neighbourhood. Have play dates in a park or in your backyard. Let them play suwe, hide and seek, ten ten and the increase in their fitness would help alleviate the obesity problem.

    Another thing I would like to mention is indomie. Indomie is one of the worst foods to feed your children everyday. A single pack contains almost 400 calories and a high amount of sodium. That 400 calories could be achieved with a banana, an apple and a big glass of juice. So more parents need education on healthy habits.

    **apologies for the long post**

    • OloladeB December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      I totally agree with you!

    • Gidi December 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Na Indomie go finish all our kids.
      Even adults have joined in the madness.

  • Concerned December 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Age 9 and 76kg, that’s child abuse plain and simple….type 2 diabetes among other health issues.

  • Tobechidaniel December 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Indomie bad carbs plain and imple but people look at it as the food of the rich.

    BellaNaija, I would like to be a writer on your website, how does one go about doing that.tobechi_daniel@gmail.com

  • BukiOni December 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Childhood obesity is a sensitive issue. Whether a child is genetically predisosed to it or not, it is important that healthy eating habits are cultivated from a very early age and if possible even during pregnancy. It’s also important that children exercise regularly even if it’s just playing tag, jumping rope or playing hopscotch. All these things help children to maintain a healthy weight and make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need for growth and development. At the same time we shouldn’t deny children from the odd burger, sweet or pizza, but these should be treats and not regular occurances – it’s all about balance really, we all want our children should be well rounded and disciplined individuals.
    http://www.emblemofbeauty.blogspot.com/

  • ifyoma December 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I HAFF SAID IT IF MA ANY OF MA KID BECOMES OVERWEIGHT/FAT/OBESE I WILL LOCK HIM/HER IN A ROOM PASS FOOD TO HIM/HER TWICE A DAY TILL U LOSS WEIGTH WFHECK

  • hawtmom December 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I totally agree wif Anon.we need to start getting calorie concious as ignorance isn’t excusable! Processed foods,fried foods,sugar etc ‘nuf said.

  • esther December 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    what do i do because i also have dis same problem my daughter is 6+ and she is wearing a size 12..

    • Obi December 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      You have a lot to do. Luckily, it won’t cost you much. If you don’t work weekends, first thing in the morning, get up, pray, and take a walk with your kid. Add some running or jogging if you can. Don’t just walk to the gate and back. My dad used to do this with other. You’d be surprised at the things you’ll learn about your kid.
      Secondly, you would have to eat healthier yourself. I’m not saying you eat junk, I’mm simply encouraging you to show your kid by example, the things that are best to eat. I’m going through this myself. My husband tells me that I eat wrong and that my diet is the reason for my weight gain. But then, he eats more than I do! I know however that the body requires a certain amount of calories daily to function. I can get the calories anyhow I wish, but in order to help myself, I need to get these calories from foods rich in nutrients that my body will enjoy. Fibre is also key to good health. Most of the fibre we eat is eliminated in faeces, and the more fibre in your diet, the better because it has been linked to decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, ulcers, and helps reduce cholesterol.
      Also, gradually increase your child’s activity from every weekend to everyday. It will take more of your time, but that may have to be your sacrifice to make for a healthier child. Park your car further away from where you are going so that you can walk a bit more to your destination. Dance Dance Dance. Dancing is a often the best way to engage in physical activity without getting bored. You can have family over every weekend (however often you can manage) and have a dance fest. It won’t cost much. Have your family/ friends/ whoever is coming over share the burden of providing the food & drinks. No soft drinks, just water and homemade juice as much as possible. Put some cds in the player or hook up your ipod/mp3/whatever you have and boogie away.

      You have everything you need, you don’t need a gym. In Nigeria, the combination of long walks, the hot sun, & uneven roads can go a long way to help with weight loss. That is probably one good use of bad roads.

  • pynk December 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    its the parents handsdown. If you teach a child how to eat from the start, that child rarely deviates from it. Growing up, my mother would put an unbalanced meal in front of u and ask u what was missing. U knew u had to eat fruit daily, veggies daily etc.
    Folks need to take responsibility for their children simple.
    PS: abeg is chikoje a boy or girl? editing na wa.

  • JJ December 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    While i appreciate the message behind this article, it has been let down by many issues
    Many of the medical facts in this article are wrong. For example varicose veins is not a problem with “slow blood circulation” rather it is a problem of the valves in the blood vessels. Whilst being obese is a known risk factor for developing gallstones, research has not shown any relationship between diet and development of gall stones. Obesity is not directly linked to the development of renal disease. Any i would like to know what the author means by “haemorrhage”?
    Personally i thing that the Bella Naija editors need to be more careful about what they post so as not to mislead readers. To whom much is given much is expected. Also the article is not edited properly.

  • chichi December 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    to all moms i know you have the money for MR BIGG’S and co. but pls take this advice,’ cut those crap off’ this will do your child NO GOOD even if it does not manifest now it would in the future. give your children home made food. use Lipton instead of Milo. one more thing remember fat people are 80% close to heart diseases. there is nothing like fat is in the gene. trust me you can avoid it

    • Tiki December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

      There’s nothing like fat in the genes? I guess we now know who was sleeping in biology class when the teacher was lecturing on inherited hormonal imbalance and the speed of one’s metabolism.

      • Nneka December 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm

        lol…Tiki you are funny. I very much appreciate the message in the article ( not sure about the article title though). Obesity is reallly becoming an issue. Please revisit the old time games like 10/10, Suwe and others with your children. Those games have health benefits. I really do cringe when I see young overweight kids. I know weight can partly be blamed on genes but 70kg at how old again??? Blame food bro!

  • CA anonymous December 20, 2011 at 3:37 am

    I think alot factors are currently contributing to the increasing child obesity in Naija. For one i belive majority of the blame falls on the parent. After all your the 1st role models your kids see from childhood. So if you as a parent are not eating healthy how can your kids do so..as a parent you dictate what your child eats. Granted you cant watch them 24/7 esp when they are at school or at a friends place, but if its instilled in them the importance of a healthy and balanced diet they will not gorge out at the 1st sign of available junk food. Make them understand what type of nutrients they gain from the foods they eat and I Believe an occasional treat is ok.
    but the biggest problem today is that our society has changed.When i grew up late 80′s and early 90′s, the estate i lived in was massive…each compound has spacious backyard to play “catcher” or “police and thief” or “hide and seek” and there was a playing ground with the swings,climbing frame aka monkey bar and place to play ten ten or suwe or “skipping rope”(jump rope) lol and we all rode our bikes and even our friends who didnt have wud share with us..between all that and climbing your neighbors tree to pluck guava or “ebelebo” you could not be inactive ( i grew up in warri lol). guess it helps that only few kids had nintendo/sega genesis so u had to be active..even the birthday parties then u were sweating ur fine hair that ur mum did for u just so u could win the dancing competitions or musical chairs or statues LOL these days the parties kids are having dont see as fun or high energy as my time…
    Point am tryna make is that nowadays compounds are small and barely have garage or space to park your car let alone have space for kids to run up and down.Particularly if you live in lagos. Same thing will schools(everycorner one new school is popping up) and its like a tiny piece of land with no playing ground..alot of schools now dont even have inter house sports becos theres no place to host the event unless they rent a field on something…all is all parents have to create a healthy lifestyle of both nutritous meals and active living..and you dont have to be rich in my opionion to do this..Mineral/soda alone has a seriously high calorie content so tis the little things that add up..thats just my 2cents sha

  • damaris December 20, 2011 at 7:09 am

    1. Parents are very responsible for theirn children’s health, one thing i like Nigerian for is that we always look for ways to take off blame off our back
    2. Rich kids inNigeria think they are enjoying good food by going to fast food joint or places
    3.Everyone in Nigerian needs to be educated about healthy eating especially rich people (parents/children)
    4. Gym activities need to be incoporated into the school curiculum for elementary and high school, only God know when that will be done 20—— century
    5. Eat small amount of meat! ororo!epo! saki! and also those fat food, seems odd but those things contain high level of fattttttttttttts and i say it again fatttttttttttttttts!
    6. Overall health care and school education in Nigeria need to be inproved period! only God know when that will happen in the year 20——–
    7. Finally, for those parents, i just reserve my comment, Dont want to be disrespectful, all I can say it that they are very ignorant chikena!

    • Jah December 20, 2011 at 9:17 am

      Well said! But how can kids care about health when a lot of the adults/ parents don’t even care about their health until they hit their 40s because their doctors told them they have diabetes, etc.
      A lot of parents need to start adopting better lifestyles so that their kids can be mirror them. Not excluding the younger Nigerians! I don’t get why a lot of people blow up right after high school and end up looking like their parents’ friends. lol.
      Deep frying everything; allowing our soups/foods swim in oil; constant consumption of that volcano of rice with several pieces of fried (deep) meat and no vegetables; Deceiving ourselves that we are being healthy by eating coleslaw with all that damn Heinz cream/dressing; lack of portion control; consuming mostly carbs! carbs! carbs! (no balanced diet); not drinking enough water etc are clearly not helping us. We can enjoy our amazing traditional foods without actually killing ourselves.
      I want to live a long and healthy life for myself and family. I try to stay sensible with the foods I consume . It’s not easy at all. I cheat sometimes .lol (I would love to stay this way for the rest of my life).

  • joy December 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I dont think the upper and middle class take their children to food joints because it is cool, it is just easier to go there and buy a snack

  • joy December 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Parents are to blame, we need to make up our minds in nigeria to take care of our children, that is one problem we are really having right now! If we take our time to cook proper healthier meals for them, then they will not be obese !

  • Jah December 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Orobo toh bad o! I remember back in the day when fat kids were considered cute and well-fed. Oh well…times done change!

    • Tiki December 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

      There’s orobo, and then there’s ‘What is THAT?!’ Be a plus-size, but when you can’t climb two flights of stairs without losing your breath, you need to wake up and pay attention.

  • Sasha Kramer June 25, 2013 at 2:05 am

    I hate food!!!!!!! I keep pushing it to the side when I see it!!!! Very nasty food!!!

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