Curbing Childhood Obesity

Obesity has become epidemic. But childhood obesity has spiraled out of control. Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 and adolescents aged 12-19. And, what’s worse is that it has more than than tripled for children aged 6-11. These shocking statistics prove that childhood obesity is growing at a rapid rate.

Posted on | Jodi Sawyer, RN | Comments ()

Obesity has become epidemic. But childhood obesity has spiraled out of control. Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 and adolescents aged 12-19. And, what’s worse is that it has more than than tripled for children aged 6-11. These shocking statistics prove that childhood obesity is growing at a rapid rate.

In most cases, childhood obesity doesn’t start with the child. It’s more the environment that the child has grown up in, and the way their parents shaped the child’s environment. A child is less likely to be obese if their parents model good, healthy habits for the child at an early age. Tests have shown that if one parent is obese, there is a 50% chance that the child will also be obese. If both parents are obese, then the child has an 80% chance of being obese as well, whether it’s from genetic or hormonal causes or the way the child was raised. So, what defines childhood obesity? A child is considered obese when he or she weighs 10% or more than the recommended weight for their height and body type.

Children's relationships with food develop in response to family and cultural values and practices, as well as the influence from school, peers, and the media. By making changes to diet and exercise routines, parents can stop the cycle of obesity moving through a family’s generations. Parents and teachers play an important role in forming a child's view on life. By encouraging more physical activity and the consumption of fruits and vegetables as a first choice, today's youth will soon be able to make better and healthier decisions as they grow older.

It’s unfortunate that in today’s busy society fewer families eat dinner together every night. Also, fewer parents pack their children's lunches for school. When children are left to monitor their own eating habits and choose their own lunch, it may not always be nutritious. Parents need to pave a better road for their children’s health by packing healthy lunches or making nutritious snacks fun. Nearly one-third of our children ages 4-19 eat fast food every day – meaning an approximate weight gain of 6 pounds per year.

The average child gets less than 15 minutes of vigorous activity per day, spending most of their waking time on the computer, watching television or playing video games. A large chunk of youth aged 10-19 have a negative outlook or attitude towards physical activity, and that needs to change. Regular exercise produces more endorphins, resulting in happiness. A nutritiously fed, active child would be happier and focus more in school.

They say a low self-esteem causes one to become obese, but I think it’s the reverse. Not only can obesity cause emotional issues, but a wealth of medical issues, too. People who are obese are at an increased risk for heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Childhood obesity is skyrocketing, and, unless new habits are formed, the death rate caused by obesity will continue to increase. Parents and teachers need to set examples and help enforce it.

Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercising. The cycle of obesity needs to end. Why wait any longer? Let's end it now.

Blog written by Jodi Sawyer, RN
Jodi Sawyer has worked as a registered nurse for over 14 years and was one of the first RNs in Southern California to work with...