Over one-in-10 Welsh children starting school obese

Nathan Hewitt was a 23st teenager in Merthyr and is now coaching on weight loss Nathan Hewitt was a 23st teenager in Merthyr and is now coaching on weight loss

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More than a quarter of Wales' four and five-year-olds are overweight - with more than one in 10 classed as obese, say public health officials.

Merthyr Tydfil tops the league for weight issues in young children, with 34% regarded as overweight.

Public Health Wales looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of just over 1,000 children starting primary school - with a BMI over 25 considered unhealthy.

Across Wales, 26% were over that BMI - while in England it was just 22%.

The average figures for Wales are also higher than the worst region of England - which is the north-east, where 24% of four and five-year-olds have slipped into the overweight BMI zone.

Linda Bailey from Public Health Wales says cutting food treats could help tackle child obesity

However, this year's statistics are a slight improvement on last year, when the first BMI survey was published by Public Health Wales (PHW).

PHW consultant Linda Bailey said it was not too late to tackle the problem.

"Simple and easy steps such as replacing fizzy drinks with water, and snacking on fruit instead of chocolate or crisps are the answer for many children this age," she said.

Obese children (actors, cleared stock photos) Children sitting inactive for hours is one of the issues say experts


Leading specialist Dr Nadim Haboubi, chairman of National Obesity Forum Wales, bemoans young children not being involved in activities.

"Children have computer games, iPads and they sit there for hours," he told BBC Wales.

"Unlike perhaps when we were children, there's also a genuine fear it's unsafe for young children to be outside playing, unsupervised.

"They eat too much junk food and now in the school holidays you can see them in burger restaurants from the morning onwards - the places are packed.

"I drive from home to work and there are seven 24-hour burger restaurants but no leisure centres open until late."

"Sweets when I was growing up were a treat, something you had at Christmas or special occasions, now they're given out as rewards.

"You've got to detect problems at an early age, so it's down to the parents. Obesity can keeping getting worse like a cancer unless you manage it.

"But for those in deprived areas, healthy food is not very affordable either for a lot of people."

Info graphic The darker coloured areas of the map show the greatest proportion of overweight children

Obesity levels are significantly higher than average in Merthyr, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, and significantly lower in Monmouthshire, Conwy and the Vale of Glamorgan.

'Big excuse'

Nathan Hewitt, from Quaker's Yard near Merthyr, once weighed 23 stone aged 15 - after having ballooned from the age of 10.

Now aged 24, he is 12 stone and a weight loss coach.

He argues that healthy food is within reach of people even under a tight budget.

"Cost is a big excuse," he said. "You can buy healthy ingredients and cook healthy meals cheaply. It's really about convenience. It's easier for people just to go out and buy chips."

He added: "I don't blame my parents for what happened to me. Between the age of 10 and 13 I was fully aware of what I was doing - I was eating for pure pleasure.

"But then there was the vicious circle of eating because I was unhappy and unhappy because I was overweight.

"It's no good telling young children to stop eating - you need to give them a goal to work towards. Losing weight doesn't need to be a chore - there can be something good at the end of it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    agree with 17. I have three kids aged 4 to 10. none of which are fat or do they have bad diet. yes they have sweets but also a all the fruit you can think of and will munch through a lunch eating broccoli cabbage carrots swede etc..cost isn't an issue either as I feed 5 on 60 quid a week! its laziness from jobless families. this is why food vouchers should be given not money to dictate the diet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    And how many of their parents are obese? Most if not all.

    Just look at adults, especially the women aged 25 to 35 in those higher percentage areas and you see an obvious trend.

    Parents need to lead by example and the present example is not an encouraging one for our future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    If a child is fat it's the fault of the parents. Five-year-olds don't shop for food and cook it, parents do.

    Children will continue to be fat until parents start acting responsibly and stop giving them large amounts of junk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Id rather be hungry than fat. I dont like excersise but have always avoided obesity by restricting my food and drink intake. Its not particularly difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    "it's not so much the food as the complete lack of exercise.....eating lots isn't a problem if you work hard enough too burn it off."

    It is mainly diet, exercise burn off less KCal than people think, yes kids should be running around a lot and that really would help, but they also shouldn't be eating adult portions from the age of 5 or 6.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    it's not so much the food as the complete lack of exercise.....eating lots isn't a problem if you work hard enough too burn it off.

    Putting your kid on a diet won't work, because when the diet's over they'll eat the same stuff they did before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Too much cheese on toast

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Evening snacks is the biggest problem (usually in front of the TV). Eat nothing after 8pm. Yes, you might feel a little 'peckish' (which is not the same as hungry) - and no, you don't wake up feeling 'starving', you sleep well and wake up just about ready for a decent breakfast (e.g. porridge).

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The problem, and the solution, lies with the parents. More outdoor activities, less TV/Games consoles and healthier meals and the problem will sort itself. You can argue all you like about leisure centre closures but there's plenty of open green space to get active in - Especially in Wales!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    When I was a child Sports pitches were full on a Saturday, with scouts, boys brigade, youth clubs and football/rugby teams all playing regularly. I go past pitches now and they are all empty.
    Various reasons I suppose, cost of hire is one thing but lazy mindset is the main thing.
    I'm overweight, I struggle to lose weight, my diet is good but with a long daily commute and a desk job Its hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It genuinely saddens me to see young ladies and especially young men below the age of 10 walking around with breast tissue and 'beer' guts. A look that has been normalised usually by obese parents, who's look is normalised by society.

    The only people that will come to harm are the people themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Usually a plump child has plump parents. Children are so fussy these days with their food. In my day you ate what was in front of you, or you went without. It's always my child won't eat this it won't eat that. They have too much choice . Parents are too soft with them,they give in and give them Pizza etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    My son goes to a primary school in the Cardiff area and it's against the rules for parents to send the kids in with fizzy drinks, chocolate or sweets in there lunch boxes. Quite right too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I don't think a lot of people even realise their kids are overweight. There was a kids gym class at my gym yesterday and pretty much all the kids coming out were a little chubby, not obese but carrying a reasonable amount of padding. With the steadily increasing average waist line, what was considered overweight is now considered normal and this has long term impacts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The closing of leisure facilities and swimming pools are not going to help . We have a Welsh government that says it has children's health at its core then instigates cuts to local government , who don't seem to care what happens to children's health , and then complains about the consequences . Our local coucil has closed a free pool , now families will have to pay . Don't be poor in Wales .

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    If parents stopped giving children junk food, fizzy drinks, sweets - and then controlled their access to screens then perhaps, just perhaps, the obesity rate might start to fall.

    Use screens as baby sitters, and give children to food they crave for, and what we have today is the result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Should any Primary Schools within the Bridgend area wish to join our autumn/winter cross country series, they are most welcome !
    All entries are free and are open to individual children or teams from any school within the Bridgend and surrounding area.
    Ages begin at school year 3+4.
    Therefore, why not join us in our small contribution to keeping our children fit whilst enjoying themselves !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It is purely good parenting to make activities enjoyable for the youngsters. A hungry child at the end of the day is better than breeding a couch potato.


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