Childhood Obesity

The United States has a growing epidemic. Not only are the adults in our society proving to be obese at a higher percentage, our children are, as well. Between 16% and 33% of the kids in this country are considered to be obese (defined as 10% higher than the recommended weight for height and body type). The most common time for this to begin is between ages 5-6 and again during the adolescent years.

The reasons for obesity in children can be based on many factors: genetic, biological, behavioral, and cultural. Less than 1% of childhood obesity can be blamed on physical issues, and children of two obese parents have an 80% chance of becoming obese themselves. If a child is proven to be obese between the ages of 10 and 13, there is an 80% chance that he/she will become an obese adult.

In addition to the above factors contributing to childhood obesity, the following circumstances can add to the likelihood:

Poor eating habits-These are learned behaviors. If parents follow a good nutritional plan, children will learn healthy eating patterns.

Sedentary Lifestyle- These days, kids are spending much more time on the couch watching television, playing video games, or on the internet. These activities really need to be limited to less than seven hours per week. Kids need to get up and get physical. Teach them the joy of playing Tag!

Stress/Family Issues/Peers- Honestly, kids have to deal with these things much more in 2011 than they did in 1950 or even a couple of decades ago. Emotional eating can result in being overstressed.

These kids are at a higher risk to develop health and emotional disorders.

High cholesterol and blood pressure, early heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone problems, skin conditions, depression, low self-esteem, a more likely chance of becoming anorexic or bulimic, a substance abuser, and a victim of bullying are highly likely in the presence of obesity early in life.

Thankfully, there are many strategies that parents and guardians can put in place to prevent obesity in their children.

First, be a role model. Children learn from the adults in their lives. If you have a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits, they are more likely to model themselves accordingly.

Second, never insist that children clean their plates during meals. Rather, encourage them to take only what they can eat comfortably and to stop eating when they have a full feeling.

Third, never use food or snacks as a reward. This just reinforces that eating is a way to reward oneself. This is NOT a healthy attitude for children to develop.

Finally, plan meals and eat as a family. Turn off the television; turn off the video games and internet. Make eating a family occasion at the dinner table. Oh, and never snack in front of the television during movies.

This predicament can be reversed with a bit of education and perseverance on all of our parts.

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