Obesity is now a worldwide epidemic and it also affects children. In United States alone, on average 25% children are overweight and 5% of them are obese. Children from minority races are more likely to have weight problems and these statistics are really alarming. Many modern changes in society contribute to this epidemic. Mostly, obesity affects children exactly like it affects adults. Both obese adults and children have higher chance of developing asthma, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, low self-esteem, hypertension, hearts problems and certain forms of cancer.
These are a few facts you should know about child obesity:
1. Both children and adults with lower income levels and education have higher risk of becoming overweight.
2. Children of overweight parents are also more likely to become overweight as well.
3. Infants who don’t get breast milk are more likely to have overweight problems.
4. In the US alone, food industry allocates a large amount of money to target younger audiences. Unfortunately, their products are rich in fat, sugar and calories.
5. Obese children tend to have lower life expectancy after they grow as adults.
6. Physically inactive parents are more likely to pass sedentary lifestyle to their children and increase the risk of obesity.
7. Young people who spend more than 4 hours playing video games or watching TV are more likely to have weight problems.
More than 300,000 thousand Americans die each year from health disorders related to obesity and other weight-related problems. Obesity highly increases the risk of severe heart attack, the leading cause of death in many countries. Weight problems can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Nearly 20 millions people in United States have diabetes and another 15 millions are in pre-diabetes state. Each year, $132 billions are spent to manage diabetes. This disease can cause renal failure, cardiovascular problems, eye diseases and premature death.
These are other diseases related to overweight and obesity:
• Teasing and bullying.
• Negative body image.
• Social marginalization.
• Negative stereotyping.
• Low self-esteem.
• Diabetes (type 2) and pre-diabetes.
• Hypertension and heart disease.
• Asthma and other respiratory problems.
• Hyperlipidemia (high level of fat in blood).
• Sleep apnea (breathing pauses during sleep).
• Bone disorders (e.g. Blount’s disease, flat feet and slipped cap femoral epiphysis).
• Early puberty.
• Hygiene problems.
• Fatty livers (hepatic steatosis).
• Gastrointestinal diseases.
• Gallstones (cholelithiasis), a research showed that a third of gallstone cases on children occur on those who are overweight. Gallstones risk is about four times higher on obese teenagers than those with normal weights.
• Balance problems.
• Menstrual abnormalities.
Some of the above problems do not occur on childhood years, but the risks are highly elevated when they reach adulthood. However, many impacts are immediate, such as social marginalization and bullying.
In today’s society, both parents often need to work to make ends meet. Consequently no one can teach children about proper lifestyle. Children of working parents, tend to watch TV, play video games and surf the web for hours. The sedentary lifestyle is made worse because children are inundated by enticements and advertisements of delicious but unhealthy snacks and treats. Obviously, overweight and obesity are often associated with psychological problems on children and adolescents. A vicious spiral of further over-eating and further lowered self-esteem will only lead to hopelessness and depression. These children tend to do poorly at school, not sleep well, cry a lot and emotionally unstable. They have very few friends and are isolated socially.
Bad emotional conditions can trigger unhealthy eating habits and they may gain additional weights. Parents should observe their obese children, it is important to impose healthy eating habit and regular exercise. If children are ridiculed at school, parents should also look for ways to improve their children’s self-esteem. Children should be taught in how to deal with bullies and ridicules, parental support is important to ensure healthy emotional state.
For example you should:
• Discourage them from making verbal argument with bullies whenever possible, as returning taunts can encourage more bullying.
• Teach your child to act confidently even if he feels insecure inside. Bullies tend to pick on children who appear scared. Confidence can often deter bullies.
• Ask your child to always stay in a group and on the public. Even the most aggressive bully is reluctant to confront a group of students.
Bullies are usually weak individuals. Deep inside, they are very insecure and only act out to compensate their emotional weaknesses. People who are satisfied with themselves won’t tease others. Unfortunately, children tend to hide their problems at school. If you suspect problems at school, talk with teachers, friends and other school staff members (principal, administrator and school nurse). With a good planning, the obesity cycle can be broken and children can have both healthy physical and emotional conditions.
Over the years, school has a dynamic role in childhood obesity. Unfortunately, for decades schools pretend that obesity problems do not exist and some of their policies tend to worsen the problem. For example, many schools signed contracts with fast food, soft drinks and candy producers to set up stalls at schools. A research showed that more than a third of elementary school, half of middle schools and nearly three-fourth of high schools have contract with soft drink companies and about 90% of them receive commission from sales. Many schools allow promotions and advertising within school premises to encourage sales. Additionally, many schools are forced to reduce physical education due to cost constraints. Currently, less than 10 percent schools offer daily physical educations for the students. A few schools perform annual height and weight measurements to track physical problems. It is often performed in a private setting to minimize likely embarrassment. A child who is reluctant to be weighted at school tends to have unresolved weight problems.