I come from a place where the only way to demonstrate love was through food. My mother never hugged us or said ‘I love you’ or tucked us into bed with a story and a goodnight kiss. My mother cooked. From elaborate breakfasts to chaats, homemade papadams and chaklis, jams and ketchup… we had our world of home-made I-love-yous. So, while I did weave in the hugs and the bedtime tucking in, as a mother it was in-built in me to be gratified when my child eats.
I panicked when my infant daughter threw up, and chuckled with great pride when my younger child had a voracious appetite. A fat baby was the only sign of certified good parenting. Me, a working mom—educated, intelligent—still required worldly authentications and endorsements.
I wrestled with the food issue for a bit, always worrying about my scrawny daughter despite the fact that she was physically fit and despite the doc telling me that coughs and colds and diarrhea were part of the immunity strengthening process each child goes through and despite knowing about it inside my head. I still needed the fat baby.
I don’t know where it turned but my daughter started putting on weight and I sighed in relief. And then without my noticing she just kept on adding the kilos. A few months ago, my 10-year-old daughter, 64 kilos in weight, was diagnosed with insulin resistance. Well, her mother should have been diagnosed with fact-resistance.
The price for wishing for fat babies is the fact that childhood obesity is a worldwide phenomenon. The Journal of Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity reports that excess fat that accompanies obesity has a snowball effect. Fat affects posture and how bones grow. It causes lifelong diseases (renal, pulmonary, endocrinal, cardio-vascular) that can be handicapping, if not debilitating. One of the indicators that many children today are way above the recommended weight is the fact that paediatric medication is no longer indicated as per age but as per weight.
Obesity in children and adolescents has now become an overwhelming concern; a fact only authenticated by the statistic from the last two decades which show an increase in health care costs. It has been estimated that worldwide over 22 million children under the age of five are obese, and one in 10 children is overweight.
Childhood obesity is an outcome of many factors. It starts with our obsession with baby weight, moves on to weaning kids off home foods faster than usual, excess consumption packaged processed food such as chocolates, chips, cakes, cookies and colas and the lack of physical activity—due to urban housing designs, lack of safety and the introduction of modern technology and new gadgets.