Childhood obesity is on the rise with shocking and disturbing numbers.
More and more children are suffering from it and seeing the effects
that it can cause including many problems that in the past were only
seen by adults. This issue is touching more and more families,
communities, and individuals. In order to take care of the problem it
is important to evaluate the cause of childhood obesity.
When it all comes down to it, the biggest problem is the lifestyle that most people live these days. It isn't just the "fat kids" who have this lifestyle, but it is they who are suffering with it. Many kids spend more and more time in front of video games, television, and computers. The world is becoming a sit down world, even for young children. This combined with an abundance of unhealthy food choices can easily lead to too much weight and an unhealthy body to go with the unhealthy lifestyle.
While weight loss is never easy and weight gain often seems too easy, both are based on simple math. The body burns a certain amount of calories at rest and more when you get up and move. This is a simple concept. While many of us have fallen into the belief that our bodies aren't working well because our metabolism somehow needs to be fixed, this just isn't quite how it works. Our base metabolic rate is based on how much energy it takes to maintain our bodies. Lean muscle tissue (something we often lack when we are struggling with weight) requires more energy. Getting up and moving also requires energy. All of this energy is measured in calories. We take in calories through the foods we eat. If we burn the same number of calories that we eat nothing happens. If we eat more then we use it gets stored as fat and we gain weight. If we burn less then we eat then the body burns muscle (if we aren't doing the things we should) and or fat (ideally). This causes us to loose weight. Ideally we are burning more then we eat because we are working our muscles which keeps them from being burned and forces the body to burn fat tissues. The lifestyle that a huge number of us are part of often causes a calorie imbalance and in those it doesn't it is usually because they have a higher amount of lean muscle tissues or they are moving more.
Many people think that blaming the "fat" parents is really where it should start. It is true that obesity tends to run in families and that there is some genetic issues there, it isn't true that because your parents were overweight that you have to be. It is also not something that we truly understand. So, you can't be screened for it and there isn't' a disorder that gets passed down. It should also be noted that the majority of obese people aren't suffering from a metabolic disorder; their metabolisms still work.
Another factor that many people blame obesity on is their hormones. Hormones can have a small effect on weight, but this isn't usually the case. Most people don't have a hormone imbalance that causes weight gain. While it is easy to search for a medical reason for obesity, it sadly often comes down to lifestyle factors that lead to a calorie imbalance.
Pin Pointing Specific Problems.
Each person's specific problems can vary. But the general realm that they fall into can apply to most people suffering with obesity. These are factors that are often hard to fix and that can make it hard to help someone (or yourself) when you are suffering from obesity.
It is probably fair to say that most Americans and many in other
nations don't have a healthy well balanced diet. Home cooking has been
replaced with a number of convenience foods because they are easier. We
like pre-packaged, easy to throw together, frozen food, and fast food
options. In addition to these easier meals we have a wide variety of
unhealthy snacks that most of us enjoy including potato chips, sweets,
and soda. These things are often readily available to kids and many
kids consume a large number of these items. In addition to the foods we
choose to eat, large portions (super size that mentality) is really the
norm. It isn't uncommon to see an eight year old order a triple cheese
burger, large fries, and large soda at Wendy's. All of these factors
make it easy for obesity to be on the rise.
- Inactivity- There are a wide range of indoor, sit on your bottom types of entertainment available today. There are a huge number of video consoles, computer games, television, movies, and the Internet. All of these things make it easy for kids to find things to do that don't require them to do much to make it happen. More and more people, especially kids are taking advantage of these types of entertainment. Outside activities happen less and less and this can cause issues for many.
- Family Factors- A lot of research has gone into
figuring out the make up of a family factors that tend to lead to
obesity in children. It isn't always easy to deal with, but the biggest
factor is that the parents are busy. Many work a lot of hours. There is
rarely a parent in the household regularly. Because of all the work
that they do meals are hard to cook without depending on easy and often
fattening options. It is also easier to entertain with sit me down
activities which feel like they don't take as much energy. It is hard
to get up and get out for family activities.
- Psychological Factors-
Obesity isn't quite as easy as blaming any one in particular. There are
often psychological factors that go with it. Eating is often something
that brings comfort. This can make it something that kids do when they
are upset. The more they do this the easier it will be to do it. In
addition, the more weight the gain the more pain they feel from things
such as not fitting in, not being able to do the things they want,
getting picked on, and more. This in turn often causes more eating for
It should be noted that the parents of and many obese people including children often don't think that their diets are bad. They don't think that they eat much and they don't realize that they are consuming large numbers of calories. In these cases food diaries are very helpful. A food diary is a tool to evaluate what you eat and how much you eat of it. It can also be used to total the number of calories consumed. To make a food diet one needs to write down what they eat and how much they eat. They need to be completely honest and it is often best that this is done at the time of eating and not later because waiting often causes forgetfulness. Drinks should also be included on the food diary. Most drinks have calories (with the exception of water). These calories can really add up as well! For example a 44 ounce soda (that's the one that the new Stripes keeps telling everyone they should have if they aren't a gerbil) contains about 550 calories all on its own!
Childhood obesity is a serious issue. It effects families, communities, and worse, children. the lives of these children need to be considered as we figure out how to change the way we live. It is best to raise healthy children rather then those destined for a lifetime of illness. This starts with a healthy lifestyle.