The Risks Of Obesity in Children Weigh More Than You Think

If you are concerned about obesity in children and the possibility that your child is overweight, then you are not alone. Childhood obesity is rampant in the United States with nearly 1 in 3 kids falling into that severely overweight category. Over the past 30 years there has been an increase of nearly 30% in the amount of obese children in our country and there is a lot of blame to go around. From fast food and soft drinks to lack of physical activity and laziness, our children are quickly becoming the most unhealthy and most overweight kids in the entire world.

The risks associated with obesity are very well known however they are sometimes not taken seriously enough by parents. Complications from overeating can become very problematic over time with many severe cases in kids leading to cardiovascular heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and early death to name a few. When it comes to obesity in children, self esteem and mental health issues are also prevalent and can many times go hand in hand with the physical problems these children endure. It’s a problem that can follow kids as they grow and it needs addressing right away before this obesity epidemic  goes any further.

MENTAL HEALTH – THE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY IN CHILDREN

The first emotional problem you may think of when you look at an obese child is that surrounding their self esteem. Children with weight issues are four times more likely to experience a lack of self esteem than non obese children. This eventually leads to much higher rates of other emotional problems such as loneliness, nervousness, sadness, depression, defiant behavior and anger which individually can be more than most children can handle at their age. Studies have also shown that children with obesity issues also become the object of ridicule and teasing at both school and home. This can lead to a poor self image and at an extreme could also lead to suicidal tendencies.

Doctors have also discovered that in obese children there is an increase in the likelihood of Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD which is described by the Mayo Clinic as a “persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behaviors toward you and other authority figures.” In these cases, counselors and doctors work with the child and parents to define how the weight issues are emotionally affecting the child and why they are acting out against authority figures in their lives. Treatment of ODD can include ongoing therapy and education for the child and family and in severe cases medications can be prescribed. The disorder’s  relation to obesity has been well documented and, although the chances are increased of developing ODD, intervention ahead of time to tackle the obesity issue is the best course of action.

PHYSICAL HEALTH – CONDITIONS AND DISEASES THAT ARE ATTRIBUTED TO OBESITY IN CHILDREN

There are really an endless number of conditions associated with being overweight but the physical issues can be downright scary, especially for children. Diseases and conditions most often associated with older adults and old age such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are starting to become commonplace in severely overweight children. Obese children are more than twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure and also have a much higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes at an early age.

As the percentage of overweight children in the United States continues to climb, the search for answers on how to prevent obesity in children continues. Among all of the leading factors behind the problem, the three that stand out the most are:

  • Lack of Exercise – Why is this obesity epidemic in children rearing it’s ugly head now and why wasn’t it a problem back when our parents were young? Think of how technology has changed over the last 10-20 years and you will find your answers. More and more kids are spending too many hours each day in front of televisions, computers and video games when they should be outside getting exercise. The average child with a video game system in their household will spend 3-4 hours every day play games. In addition studies have shown that kids will watch about 3-4 hours of television every day so you can see how these ‘idle’ hours are adding up. Simply cutting this time in half and using it to exercise like playing sports or even taking a walk to the playground can cut the chances of children becoming overweight by more than half.
  • obesity in childrenEating Habits – When you visit your local grocery store take a look at the aisles and think about what you see.  Did you notice that there are literally 2-3 very long aisles dedicated solely to chips, cookies, crackers and soft drinks? This is where our society has failed our kids by putting too many unhealthy junk food items on store shelves. Families need to start making healthier decisions when it comes to the foods stocked in the pantry. The easiest method is to not purchase junk foods at all and begin replacing them with healthier options (fruits, whole grain snacks, yogurts, etc.) Changing the rate of obesity in children in our country starts with changing our buying habits at the grocery store and it’s a change that families need to institute immediately.
  • Fast Food – This could go hand-in-hand with “Eating Habits” however the fast food chains are a problem all by themselves. I could go on for pages on how bad the food is at these fast food restaurants but I will assume that most people get the picture by now since movies and documentaries have already beaten that issue to death. But has society made any changes to their fast food eating habits in the last few years? The answer is NO as recent trends are showing an uptick in the percentage of people eating at these restaurants. It’s a function of the speed of the world around us where things need to be done quickly, and that goes for our eating habits too. Although these fast food companies are trying to make the menus healthier, it’s simply way too easy for a family to justify spending $1.00 for a hamburger as opposed to $4.00 for a salad in a depressed economy (which we’ve been in for some time.) It is a conscience decision that parents need to make to stop or limit the number of times they eat out at fast food restaurants. Instead of going 4-5 times per month try cutting that down to 1-2 times. Make it a treat for your children, not a habit.

RISK PREVENTION – WHAT CAN BE DONE NOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF OBESITY IN CHILDREN?

Preventing obesity in children is the responsibility of every parent and it is something that needs to be tackled now before it is too late. I think the solution lies in the “Three H’s”:

  1. Healthy Weight – Children need to frequently visit their pediatricians to make sure they are maintaining a normal healthy weight. All pediatricians are well versed in calculating BMI (Body Mass Index) and will be able to tell you where your child’s weight should be to avoid becoming overweight and for overall good health.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle – The best cure for any ailment is to change your lifestyle and that goes for anyone (especially a child) who is overweight. Parents should demand more exercise and better nutrition for their kids and they should not give in to the lure of fast food and television. It’s simply unhealthy and even minor changes to a child’s lifestyle can be extremely good for their mental and physical health. Start small and you will see big changes in your children.
  3. Healthy Habits – It has been said that the average amount of time for instituting change in ones life is 21-days as that is how long it takes for something done repetitively to become habit. Parents of children who spend way too much time in front of the computer or who have bad eating habits can begin making small habit changes now that within 3-weeks will start to become good habits for their children. The quicker the changes are introduced the quicker you’ll start to see major improvements in health.

The rate of obesity in children can be reduced and prevented but it will take the will power of every parent or guardian to get the ball rolling. A child’s future depends on it and by taking small steps now we can assure that our younger generation will become healthier adults and instill good habits for their kids as well. It has to start now.

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