by Karen Sibal
It was at my daughter’s 8th birthday party – a pool party – when I really started noticing how overweight some kids are becoming nowadays. There was this one little girl who consumed so much cake and pizza – enough to sustain both of my children for lunch and dinner. Then there was another chubby little girl, clearly huffing and puffing, trying her best to keep up with the others who were just splashing around and having fun, doing nothing really strenuous at all.
Why are our kids getting fat? Do we simply feed our kids more than our parents fed us? Or are we just not active enough? Maybe we’re just not eating right. How can we ensure our kids – the future generation of America – are fit and healthy? Read on to learn more about childhood obesity and for some interesting ideas on how you and your family and stay ahead of the battle of the bulge.
Generally speaking, a child is not considered obese until the weight is at least 10 percent higher than what is recommended for the height and body type. Obesity most commonly begins in childhood between the ages of 5 and 6, and during adolescence. Studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult. 2
The causes of obesity are complex and include genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors. Basically, a child can become obese when he or she consumes more calories than the body burns up. If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, the children have an 80 percent chance of being obese. Although certain medical disorders can cause obesity, less than 1 percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems. Obesity in childhood and adolescence can be related to:
- poor eating habits
- overeating or binging
- lack of exercise (i.e., couch potato kids)
- family history of obesity
- medical illnesses (endocrine, neurological problems)
- medications (steroids, some psychiatric medications)
- stressful life events or changes (separations, divorce, moves, deaths, abuse)
- family and peer problems
- low self-esteem
- depression or other emotional problems3
There are many risks and complications with obesity. Physical consequences can include:
- increased risk of heart disease
- high blood pressure
- breathing problems
- trouble sleeping
Before forming a plan of action to conquer obesity, parents of obese children need to ensure their child has a thorough medical evaluation by a pediatrician or family physician to consider the possibility of a physical disorder. If there isn’t a physical ailment, the only way to lose weight is to reduce the number of calories being eaten and to increase your child’s level of physical activity. Lasting weight loss can only occur when there is self-motivation and tremendous parental support and encouragement.
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