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Battling Childhood Obesity

Dr. Ramen Goel

Dr. Ramen Goel

This is a Guest blog post from Dr. Ramen Goel (MBBS, MS, FICS (USA),FIAGES, FALS), a  highly trained gastro-intestinal surgeon with 20 years of experience, amongst the pioneers of bariatric surgery in India, and a thought leader across the world. Dr Goel is an invited faculty at Ethicon Institute of Surgical Education at Mumbai to train practicing surgeons in India.  He has an enviable record; having performed over 1300 bariatric surgeries in the past 12 years. His current affiliations include Breach Candy Hospital, Cumballa Hill Hospital and Hinduja Hospital, all in Mumbai.

In India, 22% of children & adolescents between the age groups of 5 – 19 years suffer from obesity!

A recent study published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics states that in India, there’s a 22% obesity prevalence rate in children & adolescents between 5-19 yrs. The study links childhood obesity to “rapidly changing dietary practices and a sedentary lifestyle”. In a country where increasing weight is often linked with prosperity and good health (‘khaate peete ghar ka’ goes a local saying in jest), it is important to understand the ill effects of obesity.

Wide ranging consequences such as hypertension, cardiac issues, and in several cases emotional disturbances such as inappropriate behavior, relationship problems, depression or an inability to learn make obesity a major red flag.

Childhood obesity is a complex interplay of genetics and environmental factors. Obese children usually come from families where other members are also grappling with serious weight issues. I am affiliated with premium hospitals such as Hinduja Healthcare Khar, Breach Candy, Cumbala Hill Hospital, to name a few, and I have operated on more than 20 youngsters last year alone. Case in point being Prathmesh Mhanvar, an 18-year-old Thane resident, who has been battling obesity since childhood and who underwent a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy last year. At the time of the surgery he weighed 128 kg; today, at 80kg, he’s hoping to lose more weight to suit his 5’5″ frame.

With increased parental pressure, societal expectations and obesity related physical limitations, most of these children are suffering from self-esteem and psychological issues. Children go into cycles of starvation, excessive exercising and high possibility of weight regain. These kids are emotionally traumatized and need urgent psychological support which is missing in our society. Coping post-surgery itself requires tremendous self -control and support. Patients are put on a liquid diet for two weeks followed by a soft diet for one month. Weight loss happens slowly, and while patients can eat anything after a certain period, portions sizes are restricted. In addition, these youngsters have to take nutritional supplements till the ages of 20-22. In the long run, patients must undergo annual health check-ups, eat controlled portions and stick to a protein-rich diet.

Here are a few tips to ensure your child steers clear of becoming obese:

1. Discipline your child and enforce some restrictions regarding their diet.

2. Encourage physical activities as a family like going for swimming, badminton, etc. together.

3. Habituate them to regular small meal pattern rather than three large meals to increase their metabolism.

4. Avoid feeding them with excess butter, ghee and other fatty foods hoping that your child will become healthy.

5. Avoid processed food or ready-made supplements.

6. Do no force the child to gulp the food he does not like. Rather change the recipe or the way of cooking or presenting that particular food or replace it with some other ingredient.

The early identification of children at risk of developing combinations of physical and mental health problems may enable interventions that can help to prevent progression to more serious physical and mental health problems in later life.


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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.

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