Skip to content

Examining Childhood Obesity

Examining Childhood Obesity

by Nuran Yumnu, Yuedi Zhou, Arieshadela Irwantini, Grace Cascioli & Aeryn Pfaff.

Obesity in children is a growing concern among Canadians, with Canadian obesity rates beginning to rival those of our neighbours to the south. The issue is very sensitive since there are so many factors. Genetics, family life, self esteem and income can all be factors that contribute to weight, but we wanted to look at what can be done to avoid this phenomenon.

On Tuesday, March 26th, Nuran went to the East York Civic Centre to interview Toronto Health Nutritionist, Sielen Raoufi. They talked about the main causes of obesity among children, technology and her advice on what children should do to stay healthy in regards to the things they eat and to their physical activity?

Sielen Raoufi says that Obesity is a complex issue that has multiple factors that play into the reason it’s become as prevalent as it is today. She says that it is not an individual issue. It could have something to do with genetics but there are so many other things that play into child obesity such as their environment. She also said that children are not making the right food choices and are not getting enough activity as they should.

“Students should be getting a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.”

She says that children used to spend hours playing outside but today, due to safety concerns, they are not getting as much activity as they used to because they are staying inside. Some children join sports teams but just a minority of children attend. She also says that not enough children are walking to school.

There are many things that can contribute to helping improve physical activity and diet among children.

“Here at Public Health we help schools try and find ways to add physical activity into the school day and help them to enhance Nutrition Education. And to really help students understand the fundamentals of the food guide.”

When asked about whether or not technology plays into obesity among children, Raoufi said that society has made it easier for us to be more sedentary and to not move as much as we used to, because we don’t need to. We are no longer as active as we used to be because of technology. By the overuse of cars, elevators instead of stairs and gadgets that children spend their time on rather than going outside to play.

A good step toward being healthy and fit is to follow Canada’s food guide.

Exercise is a key component to maintaining a healthy weight in children and adults alike, so Aeryn met with Personal Trainer and competitive Hockey player Jordan Lee to discuss children and physical activity.

His philosophy behind children and exercise is to nurture it to the point that they actually enjoy it. Exercise should be something that the whole family does so that it becomes a regular part of their lifestyle. He suggests that if a child has difficulty with athletics, to start them exercising in baby steps with chores like snow shovelling and grass cutting, and engaging in family exercise like a bike ride or a hike. Canoeing and kayaking are also sports that he recommends for children, since they are likely to find them more exciting than regular sports. He also stresses that nutritional goals as a family are vital to making healthy eating sustainable.

Health and self esteem are often intertwined and Jordan said that for kids, playing team sports is a good way to build friendships and feel like part of a community, even at a young age. Once your family begins to practice exercise together they should go to their local community centres and meet other families with similar goals, living healthy lifestyles. This feeling of community greatly contributes to your children’s emotional well being. He said that exercise’s other benefits to mental health and daily life include mood regulation and stress reduction and happiness in school leading to better grades. Kids will also concentrate and sleep better since they have an outlet for their energy.

He warns that kids will not respond to adult style workouts until they have the discipline to take them on. They would find them monotonous. In short, kids don’t want to run on a treadmill for half an hour, they want to be outside. He says that as children become more athletic, parents should place no limit on their athleticism. Who knows what they could achieve?


Yuedi interviewed family doctor John Gannage on March 20. He is the Medical Director of Markham Integrative Medicine, a multidisciplinary family practice that bridges conventional and alternative medicine.

More than half of Dr. Gannage’s practice consists of working with children and their families and recommending therapeutic diet plans.


“Sugar is one of the key reasons for childhood obesity. Kids should always avoid sugar.”

“It’s very important for brains to get the nutrients from the food we eat, digested and absorbed. Processed flour loses many nutrients found in whole foods such as vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium up to 85% lost. “

“Therefore, kids should avoid cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, toasts in the long run. Parents should look at both front and back labels on food packages. Often, front labels do not reveal unhealthy ingredients.”

“The food that kids eat all the time has lots of additives, such as colour, Monosodium glutamate and flavours.”

“Kids should avoid additives. They are commonly found in gum, diet coke and seasoned food. Additives slow down the brain and make kids less likely to work out. As a result, kids become overweight.”

“Also, Children should avoid the top 10 genetically-modified foods, including papaya, soy, corn, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, diary products (especially cow’s milk), peas, cotton (oil), canola. “

“Farms grow genetically-modified foods to increase profit. This is not about public health. These foods can handle massive loads of pesticide which are used to remove weeds, so that farmers can plant crops much closer to each other and sell more produce per acre.”

childhood weightObesity fact

So get inspired and make a change. Try enquiring at these fantastic local camps over the summer; an important and easy time to get kids active.