Childhood Obesity

You may not be aware that children are one of the fastest growing segments of the population with respect to obesity Over the past few decades the obesity rate for children between the ages of 6 and 11 has tripled while the obesity rate for children 2 to 5 and 12 to 19 has doubled.

It does not seem to matter whether the child is male or female, the obesity rate is pretty much the same.  However, what does appear to make a difference is income level.  In times past people with greater wealth were heavier.  At that time being heavy was a sign of wealth and prestige.  Now the poorer population is heavier.  This may be because processed, fatty foods are cheaper than the lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables.  People with a low income may not be able to afford the healthier, but more expensive foods.

We are all aware of health risks associated with obesity.  These risks include diabetes, heart attack, stroke, arthritis, and asthma, just to name a few.  The longer a person is obese, the greater the risk.  Someone who is obese as a child is at greater risk of developing health problems earlier than someone who became obese in adulthood.

Children who are obese tend to miss more time from school.  In fact, these children may be out of school four time more than children of normal weight.

Obese children can encounter problems other than health problems.  Other children can be cruel.  Obese children are often the brunt of jokes or bullying.  Many people view obese children (and adults) as being lazy, stupid or lacking self-control.   If a child is stigmatized in childhood that feeling may follow him for the rest of his life.  It may hinder his ability to develop relationships as an adult.

As a parent, you have some control over whether or not your child becomes obese.  Teach your child to make good food choices.  Limit the number of times your child can indulge in a fast food meal.  Only purchase minimal amounts of soda, candy, cookies or ice cream when you grocery shop so the amount your child can consume is limited.

The obesity problem among children is caused mainly by the child’s lack of exercise.  Get your child up off his butt and away from the television or computer screen.  Are you aware that many children spend 4 or 5 hours each day in front of a TV or computer screen. Encourage your child to take a bike ride, play a ballgame, walk the dog – whatever will get the child moving. Your child should engage in some type of physical activity for at least 1 hour each day. After dinner the entire family can take a walk or ride their bikes together.  Exercise will be good for everyone.

Now that you are aware of some of the facts and problems associated with childhood obesity it is up to you, the parent, to make changes.  It will not be easy, but if your child is heading toward obesity or is already obese, steps need to be taken toward a healthier lifestyle.  It is not too late to reverse things.  Encourage your child to eat healthy nutritious foods and get plenty of physical activity.