Causes of Child Obesity - the Uncomfortable Truth
What are the causes of child obesity? Who to blame?
Along with the increase of obesity in adults, childhood obesity is on the rise. Around 15.5 percent of adolescents in the United States, aged 12 to 19 are obese. Even more alarming, about 15.3 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are obese. These children are developing Type II Diabetes and high blood pressure at an early age.
Children are placing themselves at increased risk for heart disease and other obesity-related diseases. Their weight also makes them the target of bullies and children who insult and taunt them about their weight. This can ruin their self-esteem and put them at risk for depression.
It's tempting to ask, when confronted with the disturbing facts of child obesity, who to blame? Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as we'd like it to be…
Today’s children make up the digital generation. They’ve been surrounded by computers their entire life and are not as physically active as children of past generations were. Instead of going outside and playing, they tend to hang out indoors, watching TV and playing computer and video games. Along with lack of physical activity comes the convenience of fast food.
There are fast food restaurants virtually around every corner, and they have easy access to snack foods full of saturated fats and sugars. In addition, obese parents are more likely to have obese children. The reason for this is two-fold. First, obese parents probably pass down their poor habits to their children. Second, genetics plays a role in obesity.
So, what are the causes of child obesity? Who to blame? The easy way out would be to blame television, to blame fast food companies, to blame schools who feed our kids unhealthy food and fail to provide enough exercise.
While all of these are certainly valid causes of child obesity, who to blame may actually be uncomfortably close to home. Maybe its time we as parents and consumers accepted our share of the blame.
While we may have little influence on how multinational food companies run their business, we do have a lot of influence on how our homes our run. Would there be a booming market for fast food if we didn't take our kids to fast food restaurants several times a week as a treat? Would our kids have acquired a taste for unhealthy, highly processed convenience foods and sugary, fizzy drinks if they had not grown up with them?
We're not suggesting you beat yourself up about past failings in this respect. Dwelling on the past is seldom productive. Instead, look to the future. It's never too late to change unhealthy habits. And even small weight reductions and lifestyle changes can make big health differences.
What Parents Can Do
It’s important for parents to be role models to their children and emphasize the importance of physical activity and healthy eating. Parents can create healthy environments for their children by doing regular physical activities, such as biking, swimming, or walking together. They should encourage their children to participate in sports, dance, martial arts, and etcetera. This allows children to develop an appreciation of physical activity and enjoy exercising.
When it comes to eating, parents need to implement diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains. They can make eating enjoyable and healthy by preparing food together and eating together as a family. Fast-food should be limited and reserved for special occasions. Way too often, we reward ourselves for a job well done with food. Look for other ways to reward your children for doing a great job, such as a special shopping trip or a day with just mom or dad.
Let's be sure that in three or six months, when we're asked about child obesity who to blame, we can say with a clear conscience that it's not us…
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