Childhood Obesity: A Fixable Issue
The How's and Why's of helping your child
Childhood obesity is a very real issue that has struck America and numerous other developing countries. Today in America 32% of children are overweight and 11% are obese. This is staggering figure that shouldn't exist, children are victims in their households with no real means of feeding themselves. We will go over a few major corollary issues and information that deal with childhood obesity and the best ways for parents to resolve the issue together with their children.
- Physical Side Effects
- Mental Side Effects
- Healthy Approaches to Fixing the Problem
Not are children are equally at risk for childhood obesity. Overweight children tend to have overweight parents. Heredity however only accounts for a tendency to gain weight not an end all be all "fat gene". There is also a consistent trend with a low Socioeconomic status and a higher obesity rate, especially with the African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American ethnic groups. The low socioeconomic status will also usually include a lack of knowledge regarding a healthy diet; tendency to buy high-fat, low cost foods; and family stress, which can lead to overeating. How parents feed their children is also a major part, whether or not they over feed and try to cater to every need of their child or are overly rigorous in what they allow their child to eat. Both parents fail to allow their children to learn how to regulate their energy intake. Also these parents will tend to "treat" their children with food which leads to bad habits regarding food. Also children who don't get enough sleep have a tendency to become over weight. Inactivity is a huge factor as well which plays into children becoming overweight.
Physical Side Effects
Overweight children, as compared to children with a healthy weight, are more likely to develop many health problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which are associated with heart disease in adults. Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in overweight children and adolescents. Children at a healthy weight are free of these weight-related diseases and less at risk of developing these diseases in adulthood.
Mental Side Effects
The most immediate consequence of being overweight as perceived by children themselves is social discrimination and low-self-esteem. A 2003 study asked 106 children between ages 5 to 18 to rate their quality of life based on things like their their ability to walk more than one block, play sports, sleep well, get along with others and keep up in school. The study found that obese children often rated their quality of life with scores as low as those of young cancer patients on chemotherapy. The results indicated that that teasing at school, difficulties playing sports, fatigue, sleep apnea and other obesity-linked problems severely affected the children's well-being. Interestingly, parents answered the same questionnaires, and their ratings of their children's well-being were even lower than the children's self-ratings.
Healthy Approaches to Fixing the Problem
- Schedule a thorough medical evaluation of their child by a pediatrician to consider the possibility of a physical cause. If no physical disorder is found, parents should work with their children to reduce the number of calories being eaten and to increase the child's or adolescent's level of physical activity.
- Emphasize healthy eating, keep fatty and sugary snacks to a minimum and keep fruits, vegetables and low-fat snacks available
- Increase their child's physical activity, perhaps by taking a few brisk walks with your child each week
- Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem. Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.
- Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and rest of his or her life. Children and parents alike have a much higher chance of a healthier lifestyle if the parents step up as well.
Hendrie, G. A., Brindal, E., Corsini, N., Gardner, C., Baird, D., & Golley, R. K. (2012). Combined home and school obesity prevention interventions for children: What behavior change strategies and intervention characteristics are associated with effectiveness?. Health Education & Behavior, 39(2), 159-171. doi:10.1177/1090198111420286