War on Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic that has increased considerably over the years. According to aacap.org, unhealthy weight gain due to a lack of exercise accounts for over 300,000 annual deaths. The annual cost to society for obesity is almost $100 billion. Obesity in children is becoming more common, but there are things that can be done to stop it.

One out of every three children between the ages of two to nineteen is considered to be obese. Childhood obesity has more than tripled from 1980 to 2008, with Mississippi having a childhood obesity rate of forty-four point four percent in 2009 (Obesity Rates in Children). Causes of obesity may include, but are not limited to: poor eating habits such as overeating or binge-eating, lack of exercise, medical illnesses or some medications, a family history of obesity, family problems, low self-esteem, depression, or stressful events such as divorces, moves, or deaths. The risk for obesity increases exponentially if one or both of a child’s parents are obese. African American and Hispanic women are more likely to become obese than Caucasian women, with their obesity rates being forty-nine point six, forty-three, and thirty-three percent respectively (The Percentage of Obese People in the United States).

There are many health risks associated with obesity, some resulting in fatality. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is becoming more common among obese adolescents and a third of all toddlers are expected to be affected by it at some point in their lives. Thirty-three to fifty percent of obese adolescents have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in obese children and has serious effects on daytime learning. Obesity also results in high blood pressure and breathing problems. Nearly four percent of all youth are considered to be extremely obese. Of that four percent, sixty percent of them have two cardiovascular risk factors. Seventy percent of all obese youth have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Extreme childhood obesity is directly linked to health problems and leads to extreme obesity in adulthood. Premature mortality is the result of this, with African American men losing twenty years of their lives, African American women losing five years, Caucasian men losing thirteen years, and Caucasian women losing eight years of their lives (ObesityHelp).  Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder are associated with obesity. Obese adolescents tend to have lower self-esteem due to constant teasing by their peers.

A healthy diet and physical lifestyle are imperative for preventing unhealthy weight gain. Most teenagers gain back their lost weight because they tend to revert back to their old eating habits and lack of exercise. I believe that one of the barriers to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is the advancement of technology, which reduces the need for more physical activity. The proximity of so many fast food restaurants also contributes to obesity. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that among ninth-graders, there was a five point two percent increase in childhood obesity in an area with a fast food restaurant within one-tenth of a mile from their school. Such an increase is expected as many fast food restaurants advertise unhealthy foods and toy incentives. How often does a child go to McDonald’s for a garden salad?

The risk of obesity is higher among older children who have the ability to choose what they want to eat. The choices that children make often reflect those of their parents. By modeling healthy eating habits, parents can encourage their children to develop healthy diets. Families can ensure that their children maintain these healthy eating habits by cooking more at home and eating as a family, instead of eating while watching television. Both families and schools can help reduce obesity by including meals that are rich in protein, vegetables, and fruits. Children should eat in moderate amounts and snacking should be limited.

The importance of exercise should also be stressed. School administrators can give each student the opportunity to have fun while burning calories by offering open gym either before or after school. Families can exercise together by getting a membership to their local gym. Children and adolescents are more receptive to doing things if they do it together as a family. Physical activity can be further increased by walking to nearby locations instead of driving. It’s a small change that can lead to a more active lifestyle. Walking is not only good for one’s health, but good for the environment as well.

Communities can also aid in the fight against obesity by starting a weight-management program in which members are taught how to live a more active lifestyle and eat healthy foods while consuming less calories. Communities can work together to offer cooking classes to encourage families to maintain healthy diets at home. The community can also sponsor a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous. The support group cannot only reach out to adolescents, but to college students as well. It can teach students how to avoid the freshman 15 by encouraging them to develop good study habits. Students should avoid all-nighters because they are harmful to one’s health. When someone is sleep deprived, the hormones ghrelin (which tells us when to eat) and leptin (which tells us when to stop eating) are altered. The body then begins to produce more ghrelin than leptin which, in turn, leads to weight gain. Staying awake all night prevents your body from filtering all of the extra glucose from the late night snacks that students are bound to eat. This could cause kidney problems or possibly lead to diabetes. Not only are all-nighters bad for one’s health, but they are bad for studies as the brain stores memories and information during sleep. Sleep deprivation also shortens the attention span.

Obesity among youth has been growing considerably over the years. Unhealthy weight gain due to a poor diet and lack of exercise has plagued our children, but there are precautions that can be taken to stop it.

What do you think are the biggest barriers to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and what can be done to encourage people to have a more physical way of life?

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About Sierra

I'm an accounting major at Texas State University with a passion for all things international. I'm going to learn Russian, Portuguese, Italian, and possibly German one day. I've been speaking Spanish for 8 years and my dream is to one day travel across Latin America. DREAM Act 2015!

Posted on May 24, 2012, in Entertainment and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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