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Causes and Help for Childhood Obesity

1152328_16239381In recent years, there has been a growing trend of increasing cases of childhood obesity. According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 30.3% of all children ages 6-11 are overweight. Read this article for more information and some tips.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of increasing cases of childhood obesity. According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 30.3% of all children ages 6-11 are overweight. While there are medical causes for childhood obesity that may not be treatable with behavior modification, diet and exercise alone, this article will discuss the non-medical causes of childhood obesity.

There are many different causes of obesity, both in adults and children. Two of the biggest preventable culprits that cause obesity at any age are: lack of activity and improper diet.

With the advent of cable and digital television, computers, gaming consoles and the internet, many children are no longer choosing to play outside during their free time and are opting for indoor activities instead. Unfortunately, activities such as these require little or no physical exertion.

Along with an inactive lifestyle leading to childhood obesity, children are consuming more calories and more ’empty’ calories than ever before. This is caused by a combination of factors. First, in a world of working parents and an increase in single parenting, home-cooked meals often take a backseat to fast food. While a child is home alone so parents can work, children often do not choose the healthiest foods for themselves.

Another change in children’s dietary habits occurs in combination with the non-physical activities too. When a child sits for hours watching television or playing on the computer or video games, he or she may have a tendency to snack all day during these activities without truly realizing how much they are eating. When children train their bodies to take in food without truly being hungry, childhood obesity can occur.

A baby is born with an instinctive ‘full gauge’. In other words, a baby will eat until he or she is full, and then will stop eating. This tendency stays with a child into early childhood, as long as the child continues to eat only when hungry. When a child begins to eat or snack all day long, this naturally tendency to stop eating when full leaves, and thus, a child can overeat.

Additionally, the type of foods available on the market over the last two decades has changed. There are more processed and pre-prepared foods available now than just ten years ago, and surely more than could be found on grocery store shelves twenty years ago. These processed foods contain more starch, sugar, sodium, processed flour, carbohydrates, and artificial substances than their natural or home cooked counter parts.

Tied into the lifestyle changes this modern world brings, childhood obesity rates are also increasing because of an increase in advertising. With more children watching television, with more channels to watch than ever before, children are exposed to more food product advertising than ever before too. Many children learn what they think life should be about from watching television, and when they regularly see actors, who are thin and attractive, consume these advertised products, it sends a clear message to the children that eating whatever you want will make you look just like these people on the commercials.

This, unfortunately, is not true, and therefore, childhood obesity rates continue to skyrocket, more so in the United States than any other country in the world. Doctors and even the government have labeled the increasing rates of childhood obesity as an epidemic of epic proportions. When children who are obese and who never learn healthy eating and lifestyle habits grow up, they become obese adults, and continue to teach these poor habits to their own children, and the average weight of Americans will tip the scales on the heavy side.

As a parent, there are steps you can take to help teach your child healthy habits and lifestyle choices. First, setting the proper example for your child is the best thing you can do. When your child leaves the house, you cannot be with them every second of the day controlling what they eat. You can, however, allow your child to see you consistently choosing healthy meals and snacks for yourself, and you’d be surprised how much of an impact that will have when it’s time for your child to make those choices for themselves.

To help even further with assisting your child in making healthy dietary choices, you may want to consider the following ideas.

DO NOT:

  • Don’t buy processed and sugary snacks in individual packages and keep them in your pantry or refrigerator. Snacks such as potato chips, pudding cups, candy, cookies, and snack cakes should be saved only as special treats, and limited in consumption.
  • Don’t buy sodas, especially in large 3-liter bottles or easy to access 12-pack cans. Soda has absolutely no nutritional value, can spike blood sugar levels that can lead to cravings, and also can lead to dehydration when consumed in large quantities and in place of water based fluids.
  • Don’t use fast food and fast food restaurants as a replacement for every meal. If you do not have time to prepare a home-cooked meal, find a fast food restaurant with healthier alternatives to burger, fries, and pizza. Many restaurants are catering to the consumer who is more health conscious, and finding salads, fruit, sandwiches, vegetables and other healthier options is much easier to do now.

DO:

  • Do buy healthy snacks, such as: fruits, raw vegetables, cheese chunks, and wheat crackers in place of their less healthy alternatives.
  • Do keep plenty of good water available. Water is crucial for so many bodily functions, and many Americans today simply do not drink enough water. If your child refuses to drink water, opt instead for fruit juices with 100% fruit, not the fruit drinks that are filled with sugar. Milk is also a healthy alternative for an occasional drink too.
  • Do buy foods that require at least a little bit of preparation. Pre-packaged and prepared foods are convenient, but they are too easy to grab out of the cabinet and consume without really thinking about what you are doing. When food items require at least a small amount of preparation, the habit of eating just because one is bored is less likely.

Physical activity is important to maintain or lose weight and keep a healthy lifestyle. If you have a child who spends a lot of time in front of the computer or the television, whether it’s watching TV or playing video games, now is the time to put your foot down and establish some limits. Sunshine and physical activity are important to any child, and while children can be allowed to play video games, setting blocks of time where they are allowed to play or watch TV and then making them take a break and go outside and play before they can come back allows the child to still do their activities they enjoy, but also adds in the physical activity they require.

Finding after school programs through your Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCA or other civic organizations, or even through some school districts is also a great way to help combat obesity issues. Not only will these groups keep your child physically active, but your child will also not be sitting around the house where snacking is an activity of boredom as much as anything else.

In extreme cases, you can ration or limit the amount of food your child can eat. Some parents have gone so far as to lock the doors to their kitchen cabinets or refrigerator. While these are extreme measures, when childhood obesity is such a huge issue, sometimes extreme measure may be called for.

Lastly, if you are concerned about your child’s weight, be sure to consult with your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor is best equipped to help you determine if your child’s weight is a problem. For additional information about childhood obesity, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website, or the fact sheets for the American Obesity Association’s website.

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One Response to “Causes and Help for Childhood Obesity”

  • RMAU:

    Having a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity is also important for long term health benefits and prevention of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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