Childhood Obesity has practically become an epidemic in developed nations, with the CDC reporting that it has tripled over the last 30 years. In the United States, approximately 20% of children between the ages of 6-11 are considered obese. Keep in mind that obesity is much more than just being a little overweight, it is being significantly overweight, and can lead to severe health problems. Learning about the problem and potential solutions is the first step to helping combat this problem in your own home.
The Causes of Childhood Obesity
- Genetics- There is no denying that genes play a role in how large or small we are. Some people do, in fact, have “big bones,” while others are destined to be petite. But genes alone do not determine if a child will be overweight.
- Hormones- Like genes, hormone levels can make a child more inclined to become overweight. Certain diseases can affect hormone levels and cause weight changes as well. However, like genes, hormones are not the sole determining factor of a child’s weight.
- Poor diet and exercise- These two factors are the main causes of childhood obesity. Children who eat too many calories and get very little exercise are much more likely to become obese than those who eat a healthy diet and remain active.
Potential Risks of Childhood Obesity
- Heart problems- Children who are obese are more likely to suffer from heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Diabetes- Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, and many children who are obese are already in the pre-diabetes stage.
- Emotional distress- Let’s face it, kids can be cruel, especially to someone who is perceived as “different.” Obese children are often mercilessly teased by their peers, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and even complete withdrawal from family and friends.
- Sleep disturbances- Excess weight can cause sleep apnea, a condition in which the sleeper momentarily stops breathing during the night. Typically, the body triggers a response in the lungs that restarts the breathing, but these constant “breaks” in respiration can lead to poor quality of sleep, which in turn can lead to numerous problems during the day.
Preventing Childhood Obesity
- Limit the “junk” food- This is one of the best ways you can help prevent childhood obesity. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, because some things that sound healthy-like certain types of fruit juice-are actually loaded with sugar and calories. Read the labels and look for foods that offer complete nutrition without the high calories.
- Increase their activity levels– Exercise goes along with diet, but with kids, this is actually one of the easiest ways to curb childhood obesity. Kids are naturally more energetic than adults, and getting them up and moving is as simple as taking them for a nature walk or throwing a ball around the backyard. Aim for 60 minutes of exercise a day.
- Teach them about healthy habits- Children are also inquisitive by nature, and understanding why they must do something is important to them. The old “because I said so” standby just doesn’t cut it anymore. Explain why they can’t have ice cream for lunch and brownies for dinner, and they may be more likely to comply willingly.