Chatter on Children
Childhood Obesity—The Modern Health Dilemma
You see it on the playgrounds, at roller rinks, at swimming pools, and in classrooms. Obesity is a modern health dilemma for today’s children, who are struggling with weight as never before. It is a difficult problem to combat, given the fact that you want to make sure that your children are receiving sufficient amounts of nutrients in their diets. While some children may outgrow obesity, others carry it with them into their adult lives. Obesity in children can result in feelings of fatigue, worthlessness, and hopelessness. It can also place them at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Just how widespread is the problem? The National Institutes of Health has determined that, over the last thirty years, the number of young people with weight problems has increased two fold. Interestingly enough, the problem is affecting children of all ages as well as children from all ethnic groups. Children who are overweight may not develop socially as fast as their peers. They can become loners, finding it difficult to make friends. They may think that their weight is beyond their control and they may not know what to do in order to attempt to prevent weight gain.
In essence, obese children can become our lost generation. The parents of these children may not realize how detrimental obesity is to their children’s emotional health. They may consider the obesity just a passing phase and they may not understand the psychological devastation that obesity can cause. They may even dismiss the concerns of their children, hoping that the problem will simply go away. The causes of childhood obesity can be complex. However, there do appear to be a few identifiable triggers. For instance, many families now eat on the run because of their many commitments. Parents may not think they have time to prepare nutritious meals for their children, so they rely on fast food and sugary snacks to fill in the gaps. As a result, children end up eating a diet that’s rich in fat and sugar but which offers little in the way of nutritional value. According to the American Obesity Association, one third of parents believe their children’s dietary habits are worse than theirs were during their own childhoods.
Another key problem is inactivity. Children watch more than a full day’s worth of television each week. That’s in addition to the hours they devote to their computers. As a result, they’re not playing outside as much as children of generations past. Also, many children may feel as if they cannot participate in sports because of their weight. Feeling defeated before they even start, they pass up opportunities to engage in physical activities. It has been shown that children tend to be heavily influenced by advertising. Unfortunately, many commercials tout foods that can be best classified as unhealthy. Children crave what they see on TV and in movie theaters and they may not realize what these foods will do to their bodies. Luckily, childhood obesity can be successfully conquered.
Here are a few tips to help your child overcome a weight problem: • Encourage your child to take part in sports or dance. If your son or daughter is self-conscious about being a part of a team, exercise with him or her. Take out a ball and shoot a few hoops or turn on the stereo and begin to dance. You may be surprised that, with just a little encouragement, your child will get up and start moving. • Consider limiting TV time. Research clearly shows that TV time is unproductive time for children and teens. If your children spend less time watching TV, they may spend more time exercising. • Ban junk food from your home. With a little push, children will become accustomed to eating healthy snacks such as fruit and vegetables. • Check with your child’s pediatrician to see if he or she can recommend some specific weight control strategies.
Childhood obesity is a problem, but it is not insurmountable. The greater the interest you show in your child’s diet and exercise regimen, the more influence you will have over your child. In time, your child can learn the strategies necessary for a healthy life.
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