Childhood Obesity

Children are no longer simply overweight. A large percentage of children in the are now obese. Some high school students, and in rarer cases elementary and middle school students, are 300-400 pounds. Yet, most parents refuse to see their children as overweight. Many parents will say their children are big-boned, the weight is only baby fat, it’s not fat but muscles (remember the movie the Nutty Professor?)âÂ?¦âÂ?¦. I could go on and on. Children haven’t always been this way though. Twenty years ago it was rare for a child to be 300-400 pounds and fifty years ago it was almost unheard of. More and more we see this subject covered in the news, in magazines, and even see pamphlets in the doctors’ office, leading mothers and fathers (even those with unborn children) to ask these questions: What is causing American children to be so overweight? What are the risks involved with childhood obesity? What can be done to help children who are obese? How does childhood obesity affect a child? Can childhood obesity be prevented?

Television, computers, and video games. Oh my.

These are some of the reasons children are overweight. More and more, both parents are working and having to leave their children with babysitters, family members, etc. These individuals, who are usually busy themselves, then hand the children over to the T.V. That’s right, the television has become a babysitter and this often happens even when the parents are there to take care of their children. Before Nickelodeon came along children only had a few hours to watch cartoons and other kid shows before the news would come on and they would run. Now children have channels even better than Nickelodeon. They have channels that cater to their needs 24 hours a day. So you think, simple enough, I’ll just stick with channels that are educational. Well it’s not that easy. Children can easily pick a number of video games to play or play and chat on the computer for hours. This is where it becomes tricky. Computers have become essential tools in a child’s education. Many classes even require research be done on the internet for certain projects. Also video game corporations are catching on and starting to make educational games, so parents won’t feel bad about their children playing video games all day. All and all children are spending way too much time inside. Most children only get exercise when they are in gym class. Instead of starting a sedentary lifestyle in their college years, they are born into sedentary lifestyles. It’s not all about the sedentary lifestyle. Some children are very active and are involved with several after school activities. This leads most parents to rely on fast food. Unfortunately the food problems don’t stop there. Parents often use candy, cookies, etc. as treats when the child has made a good grade, cleaned their room, or simply behaved. Milk and juice are not the drinks of choice anymore. Most children live on pop or high sugar fruit drinks. That’s not all, parents often give in and let their children eat whatever they want because they are afraid their children will be unhealthy if they don’t eat, but they overlook the fact that allowing them to eat cookies for breakfast is unhealthy too.

Paying the Price

Along with all these sedentary activities and all that junk food comes risk. Children are now being faced with health problems that only adults use to face. Childhood obesity affects the whole body. It is truly like their bodies are falling apart. Here is what children with childhood obesity are faced with:

  • Type II Diabetes was usually only found in adults, but is now being found in obese children. Type II diabetes can lead to kidney failure, blindness, and even death if not controlled properly.
  • Asthma is now being found in more and more obese children. Asthma can prevent children from participating in sports, playing with their friends, and even in extreme cases simply walking for long distances.
  • High Cholesterol could lead to heart disease as obese children get older, and older could be as early as their late teens.
  • High Blood Pressure can make anyone feel dizzy, have headaches, or even feel nothing at all. Children being faced with this silent killer may not know how to describe the symptoms they do feel. If left untreated high blood pressure can also lead to heart disease.
  • Osteoporosis is the affect of not getting enough calcium. The bones start breaking down making it easier to break a bone. Obese children who are active are at extreme risk for breaking bones while playing sports. Even extremely obese children with osteoporosis could fracture bones simply by walking.

Other problems obese children might face are sleepiness during the day, stress, sleep apnea, fatigue, joints breaking down, and even failing grades in school.

My Child Is Obese. What Can I Do?

There is so much that can be done to help a child that is obese:

  • Limit T.V. and video game time. This may be hard to do at first, but coming up with better activities will make it easier.
  • Play with your children more. Getting out and playing ball with your children can burn calories in a fun way, not only for them, but for you as well.
  • Monitor your child’s computer time to make sure they are actually working on their homework. We all know how easy it is to get lost for hours and hours surfing the internet and that’s the same for children. They may be tempted to instant message a friend, play games, etc. By keeping an eye on them you can insure they are using the computer for a good reason.
  • Treat your children with a new piece of sports equipment or a new piece of clothing rather than food.
  • Teach your children how to cook healthy food.
  • Offer them a variety of healthy foods, instead of giving in when they won’t eat broccoli.
  • Help them find an exercise they enjoy and is easy on their bodies. Being obese makes it hard to start a rigorous exercise routine. Try simply kicking a soccer ball back and forth with them in the back yard. Being involved in their exercise will make it easier on your children.
  • If your children are involved in after school activities, cook meals in a slow cooker to ensure that you will have healthy meals ready when you get home. If this isn’t possible encourage your children to make better choices when eating out. Many fast food places offer healthy options in kid meals, including fruit and milk. If they are too old for kid meals, be sure to point out grilled chicken meals, salads, and diet drinks or water.
  • When serving your children food at home, be sure to include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins (chicken breasts, fish, 93% lean ground beef, etc.), low-fat dairy products, and very little junk food.

There are of course many more things that can be done to encourage a healthier lifestyle that will help your child lose weight, everything from special diets to surgery. Gastric bypass surgery should only be done as a last resort or if their weight is out of control. The most important thing is to be there for your children and sympathize with them. What they are going through is not only hard on their bodies but also on their self-esteem.

When Weight Affects the Mind

I mentioned above how not eating the correct foods can cause children to get failing grades and this is true. By not supplying the body with the foods it needs to think clearly, stay alert, and learn, they will not be able to keep up in school. This can be very hard on children. Sometimes they are held back because their grades are so poor. This just leads to more kids making fun of them. These children are usually much bigger than children their own age and as they get held back and continue to grow taller they can be extremely big to children who are younger than they are. They are also made fun of by their peers, which completely destroys their self-esteem. They are left with little confidence and eventually start to avoid interaction with their peers when possible. Most avoid speaking with the opposite sex for fear of rejection. They stop going out to the movies, sporting events, etc. for fear of being too big for the seats at that particular event. Some even start to experience severe depression and if not helped by their parents, they may try to commit suicide. The emotional affects obesity has on a child, especially a teenager, is truly depressing and the only true way to overcome them is to start changing their body and their self image of their body. They need to believe that they can be beautiful while still being overweight.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

This is very easy:

  • Only allow your child to have treats every once and a while.

  • Purchase healthy foods you know they will enjoy, such as strawberries, watermelon, granola bars, etc.
  • Get your children interested in exercise at an early age.
  • Teach them about obesity and the affects.
  • Trick them into thinking they are getting an unhealthy snack. Make cookies with a sugar substitute, by sugar free candy and ice cream, buy fat free candies (check the sugar content), buy baked potato chips, etc.
  • Take your kids on vacations that will involve exercising, such as camping.
  • When buying video games for your child, buy one that involves exercise. There are video games out there that involve dancing and strength training.
  • Pack your child’s lunch and feed them breakfast at home, if the school cafeteria doesn’t offer healthy options.

Childhood obesity is a plague, but it can be stopped. Parents need to be more involved in their child’s life as well as provide healthier meals for their children. Increase your child’s life by doing things that are good for them.

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