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Overweight & obesity are often used synonymously. Although both refer to having more fat in the body than what is considered healthy, obesity is a bigger problem. Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25-29.9 is deemed to be overweight, but more than 30 is considered obese, in adults.

A study by the University of Atlanta says obesity begins early. Kids who are overweight/obese at the age of 5 are most likely to become obese adolescents and in turn, obese adults.

The Imperial College of London (ICL) in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO) researched on worldwide obesity-rate trends in 2017. The results were alarming. It was seen that obesity in children and teenagers had increased ten-fold from 1975 and the rate is only expected to grow in the next 5 years!

The Australian institute of statistics report that in 2018 one out of four children in Australia were either overweight or obese.

What is causing teenage obesity?

Obesity is a chronic disease associated with severe health ailments.

1. Genetic traits are known to increase the risk in many cases.

2. Unhealthy eating pattern – Intake of too many calories, especially in the form of junk food or overeating and binging. Fried foods, sweetened juices, processed and packaged foods, all contribute towards obesity.

Dr Temo K, WHO technical officer, Fiji, says, “Promotion of healthy foods has fallen by the wayside. They are unable to compete with the glamour and flashiness of imported and advertised goods.”

3. Sedentary lifestyle. The modern-day technological subservience has led to reduced/lack of physical activity. Simple physical activities like walking, cycling, climbing stairs, or helping with household tasks have all taken a back seat!

4. Social pressures for various reasons can lead to negative emotions like depression, boredom, anger, which influence risky eating habits.

Dealing with teenage obesity

Parents can start noticing the signs of overweight very early on in their kids. It is Parents’ and guardians’ fundamental responsibility to encourage healthy eating by setting an example. Their diet must Include fresh fruits, vegetables and nutritional snacks in the diet along with inspiring and pushing them for any kind of physical activity including cycling, biking, swimming is imperative.

BMI for teens is measured, taking into consideration their height & weight and compared with standards for children of the same age and gender. 85th to less than 95th percentile is considered overweight, 95th percentile or more is assessed obese. There are cases of extreme obesity where the BMI is at or above the 120th percentage of the 95th percentile.

Speak to your healthcare provider to understand these technicalities better.

1. They can help your kid with weight-loss medications and complementary lifestyle changes.

2. Bariatric surgery in teens is generally recommended in extreme cases, for cases which can gravely harm the health condition. For extreme obesity, gastric sleeve surgery, rarely gastric bypass surgery is recommended after studying the person’s body type and other related factors.

3. Bariatric procedure in teens can be more challenging than in adults. Kids have to be prepared to let the body cope with it; get used to a whole new way of eating and living. Patients need complete support from family in terms of switching to a new lifestyle, regular exercising, keeping up with follow-up appointments – In all, supporting them through and through the practical & emotional phase.

Getting the teen ready for weight loss surgery is a big decision. It takes cumulative effort to prepare them for a complete turnaround of their lifestyle. The doctor, family, dietician, exercise trainer, psychologist and a whole lot of friends.

16-year-old Brian Brll was severely obese. At 15, he developed type 2 diabetes & high blood pressure and was unwilling to commit to strict exercise & diet. His typical lunch would include fried chicken, half bag of potato chips and sandwich. The doctors had no option but to prepare him for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. In Brian’s words, “It was a struggle every day. I had to undergo a lot of counselling to make up my mind for the surgery. After a year now, I am 37 kilos lighter, my blood pressure and sugar have reversed. My lunch today includes a lot of fresh veggies in a sandwich and lots of water. I feel so much happier, healthier & confident.”

All said & done, obesity (like other ailments) is best treated early. Talk to your loved ones, support them to breathe in new life, for a better tomorrow.