Obesity Among Children and Adolescents

Charvi Patel April 7th, 2010 Obesity among Children and Adolescents Obesity has been a controversial issue for years. Childhood obesity is already an epidemic in some areas and is on the rise in others. Although rare in the past, obesity is now amongst some of the most widespread issues affecting our children and adolescents living in the United States today. Childhood obesity is harmful to not only the child’s present lifestyle but it also affects the child’s future.

Obesity in children is on the rise due to parenting style, inadequate exposure to healthy foods at a young age, availability of unhealthy foods, lack of education and awareness of the side effects and risks, and an increase in sedentary behavior. Obesity is a serious concern that affects our children and adolescents today. Obesity in children can be defined as a body weight of at least 20% higher than of the healthy weight for a child of that height, or a body fat percentage above 25% in boys or above 32% in girls (Ferry). While more children are becoming overweight, the already heavy children are getting even heavier.

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Obesity has a profound effect on a child’s life. Its effects include numerous health problems, emotional or psychological distress, and social problems. Studies have shown that overweight children are more likely to grow up to become overweight adults. For example, one study found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at 10 to 15 years old were obese at 25 (Bellows and Roach). Parenting styles are a very influential factor that can lead to obesity in children and adolescents. Many parents rely on a parenting technique called the reward system.

The reward system is used to get children to do what they are told to, and in return they receive a treat. Most of the time this treat is in the form of something sweet such as candy, chocolate, or ice cream or sometimes even going out to eat at their favorite place. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician with BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital, makes an interesting point. She said “Rewarding children with food is not a good idea. It elevates the status of food and makes certain foods or treats more valuable to children” (Anding). Parents don’t realize that this way of ewarding their child just leads to them eating more unhealthy foods than they already consume on a daily basis. By continuing to use this system, the child catches on to the idea of doing as the parent says and they will get the food of their choice regardless of whether it’s healthy or not. This cycle just goes on and on and continues to add to the amount of sugars and unhealthy foods your child will consume. This overconsumption of unhealthy foods will put your child in danger of becoming overweight or obese at a young age. Parents are responsible for the food their child eats are home.

Early imprinting will help alter their taste perceptions at a young age (Anding). Children develop their tastes and likings of a food at a young age. Many parents chose to give their child anything he or she is willing to eat. They believe that as long as the child eats it’s not a big deal what the food item is. This thought can be proven harmful to their child later on. If the child is introduced to unhealthy foods and has been brought up eating them, then most likely the child will continue to make unhealthy food choices throughout their life.

It is the parent’s duty to ensure that their child is exposed and produces a taste for healthy foods. Developing these healthy eating habits early on will help your child avoid falling into the trap of childhood obesity. The environment and people around children and adolescents play a big role in the choices they make. The home, child care, school, and community environments can influence children’s behaviors related to the food they eat. Child care providers and schools share responsibility with the parents for children during their important developmental years.

Children that go to these facilities are increasingly making unhealthy food choices. Schools and child care providers are encouraging snacking. It is common for elementary schools to allow students to have a snack during the day. Children see the other kids with cookies or chips or another unhealthy snack and their mind automatically craves those foods as well, which leads to the child going and buying that snack or insisting on their parent packing them those types of foods. They’re defense is “I want to take cookies or chips too; all the other kids are eating them”.

The average parent just finds it easier to pack whatever their child wants rather than sitting and trying to reason with them and explain why it’s bad for them. It’s wrong to blame just the parents or the other kids for contributing to unhealthy food choices. Schools are making it harder and harder for kids to stay on the right track. They are providing the child with a variety of numerous unhealthy food items that all look appetizing such as pizza, pop or other drinks high in sugar, and fried foods.

Children’s dietary habits have shifted away from healthy foods (such as fruits and vegetables) to a much greater reliance on fast food, snack foods, and sugary drinks. Kids see that they have the option of eating them and choose to do so. They are tempted to eat these foods and can’t help but give in to this temptation. Schools aren’t considering the fact that giving kids the choice to eat these types of foods is adding to the increasing levels of obesity in children globally. Children as well as parents are unaware of the serious side effects and risks that can be caused by unhealthy eating habits.

Unhealthy eating at a young age leads to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity can affect the child’s health not only at the current time but also in the future. It can lead to many early onset health problems and complications. Obesity in children and teens has been found to be the leading cause of pediatric hypertension (high blood pressure); it increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stress on weight bearing joints, and is associated with Type II diabetes mellitus. But these health complications aren’t the only consequences of childhood obesity.

It can also lead to social and psychological problems in the child such as a low self-esteem and affect relationships with peers, which can lead to psychological health disorders related to weight such as bulge eating, bulimia, and anorexia. The child or adolescents life can be put in danger by multiple unhealthy food choices that have lead to this epidemic of childhood obesity. The popularity of television, computers, and video games translates into an increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyle for many children in the United States.

The sedentary behavior in a child and adolescents daily routine is a major contributing factor to the increasing rates of childhood obesity. The media may decrease the time children spend engaging in physical activities, which in turn lowers the child’s metabolic rates. Several studies have shown a positive association between the amount time spent viewing television and the increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity. Children in the United States spend an average of over three hours per day watching television.

Not only does this use little energy (calories), but it also encourages snacking (Ferry). Another problem with the increase of hours a child spends in front of the TV is their viewing of advertisements. Children are influenced to make unhealthy food choices through exposure to food advertisements. The average child sees 10,000 TV advertisements related to unhealthy foods per year (Spurlock), which in turn affects the food choices by making them crave these unhealthy foods. These cravings then lead to an overconsumption of fatty foods.

The prevention of childhood obesity starts at home. In early childhood, exposure to proper nutritional foods, good exercise/activity habits, and monitoring of television viewing, will help your child make the right food choices. Parents are the most influential factors on their child’s choices. Parents are viewed as role models and the best teachers a child can have. Children are constantly watching what their parent is doing. You can help them adapt good habits by following them yourself. First, educate yourself about your children’s nutritional needs.

Use what you learn to help your children develop a healthy attitude about eating. As a parent, be sure to introduce your child to variety of healthy foods at a young age. Children might not like the food right away but be sure to offer it to them multiple times, don’t just give up. A trick to get your child to eat healthy during meals is offering the protein and the colorful veggies first, when your child is most hungry. Be sure to be consistent and offer nothing until the next scheduled mealtime or regular snack time. The child will get the hang of it and make it a part of their daily routine.

As a parent, limit the amount of time your child spends watching TV, sitting at the computer, or playing video games. Eating junk food while sitting in front of a screen contributes to the recipe for child obesity. Replace these unhealthy snacks with more nutritional snacks such as bananas, healthy crackers, carrots, or celery sticks. Being overweight is unhealthy and uncomfortable – and very unpleasant for a young child. Follow TV time with a physical activity outdoors if possible. Allow your child to experiment and try out different activities to help figure out which he or she enjoys the most.

Encourage children to engage in physical activities that burn calories and use different muscle groups: running games, swimming, skating, and riding a bicycle. These activities will you’re your child build strong bones and muscles, maintain a healthy heart, and improve coordination, posture, and reflexes. Parks and playgrounds are great ways to burn off excess calories and give them interact with other children. The goal is to get your child or adolescent to participate in physical activities for at least 30 minutes each day.

Parents should be role models for their children. If they see you being active, chances are they will do the same and will continue stay active into their adult years. A good way to get your whole family to be active is plan family activities so that everyone can be active and have fun as a family. Following these guidelines will help increase your child’s physical activity level, and in turn help decrease your child’s risk of obesity. Childhood obesity has become a serious issue that affects not only our children today but the future of children as well.

The number of children that are diagnosed as obese is expected to continue to rise until something is done to bring our nation’s children back to a healthy state before it’s too late. Excess weight has both immediate and long term consequences. This current issue demands our serious attention (Bellows and Roach). It is our job to put an end to this. Obesity is on the rise due to these unhealthy food choices that have become a part of children and adolescents everyday lives. If we do not attempt to address this epidemic it will become out of hand and lead to our children having to face obesity in their later years, as well as now.

Obesity is easier to prevent then treat. The earlier we tackle this issue the better off it will be for our children.

Works Cited Page Anding, Roberta. “Exposing Children To Different Flavors Helps Kids Develop Taste For Variety Of Foods. ” Redorbit News. RedOrbit, 17 04 2009. Web. 07 Apr 2010. . Bellows, L. , and J. Roach. “Childhood Overweight. ” Extension. Colorado State University, 2009. Web. 7 Apr 2010. . Ferry, Robert Jr,. “Obesity in Children. ” emedicinehealth: experts for everyday emergencies. webMD, LLC. , 2010. Web. 7 Apr 2010. . Spurlock, Morgan, Script. Super Size Me. Dir. Morgan Spurlock. ” 2004, Film.

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