WITH the Heart and Stroke Foundation reporting that over 14% of primary school children in Mzansi are overweight, what will stop obesity right in its tracks?

If we don’t, it’s predicted that by 2025, 3,91 million school children will be overweight or obese.

Childhood and teenage obesity is a worldwide problem.

Children of overweight parents and children subjected to malnutrition during pregnancy or infancy are more likely to become obese later on in life.

Furthermore, energy dense foods and increasing screen time also put more children at risk.

The World Health Organisation reports that Africa obesity has more than doubled from 1990 to 2013.

The foundation said a major concern was that obese kids are more likely to develop a variety of health problems as adults.

These include heart diseases, insulin resistance, musculoskeletal disorders (a disease of the joints) and some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon).

Dr Rosetta Guidozzi, a General Practitioner, said the best advice was to consider the lifestyle and eating habits of the parents.

She says its pointless offering teenagers and children advice if the parents are not adhering to a healthy lifestyle.

She also says that parents need to monitor any monies being given to their teenagers and how this is spent, to monitor their eating patterns at home and provide guidance about eating outside their immediate home. She also says that parents need to be interested in their children’s health and provide the correct support. “The important factor to stress is the teenager’s health and consequences of obesity due lack of exercise on their future wellness,” she said.

Furthermore, there are certain changes that really could make a difference.

Sugary drinks, for example, have continually been found to be a contributing factor to being overweight.

Snack foods, such as chips, baked goods and sweets have also been found to have a major impact on obesity.

In Mzansi, young girls are most at risk of becoming overweight and obese, with statistics showing that 30% of girls living in urban areas are overweight or obese. Physical appearance is a particularly sensitive issue for children entering adolescence. Being overweight or obese is also one of the most common reasons that children and adolescents are teased at school.

Dr Kelly Owen, a psychologist from Greenside Joburg, said that it is vital to create a positive family culture of health and wellbeing in the home, both from a physical and an emotional standpoint.

“Parents need to be highly cognisant of their own attitudes, behaviours and biases towards weight, body image and food because their children will learn directly and vicariously how to feel about their own bodies. Self-esteem, body image and self-confidence are all influenced by the child’s environment. Body image studies in children consistently show that sociocultural factors such as child rearing practises, parenting styles, societal standards of beauty, the mass media, and cash in trends are all impacting on girls to the extent that body dissatisfaction has become normative in females of all ages,” she said.Dr Owen also stresses the importance of parents teaching good eating habits and the need to focus on health instead of body weight, shape or size and the same applies to exercise - functional strength and health instead of exercise for weight loss, is a must.