By: Kasey Ahern
Framingham State University
During the last 30 years the number of overweight children has been on the rise. It is estimated that 18 percent of American children and adolescents are now dealing with the pressures of obesity. The average is estimated to one out of every five children. Children must deal with what pediatricians are now diagnosing as their greatest health concern. Children are eating unhealthier foods at earlier ages and preschoolers are now affected in the target zone. What factors contribute to childhood obesity? Are some children more inclined to weight gain than others? “Obesity is defined as the state of being well above what is one’s normal weight. One is considered obese if they are more than 20 percent over their ideal weight.” (Medicine Net) Parents and care givers are largely responsible for their kid’s food choices. Families often have both parents working or single- parent families may be working two jobs, they are rushing to activities and less and less time is being spent in the kitchen. More time is spent on the run or in the car. They grab dinner on-the-go and are choosing fast foods such as McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and Papa Gino’s. Breakfast is often pulling up to the drive-through window and ordering munchkins at Dunkin Donuts. These meals are high in calories and sugar. Vegetables and fruits are becoming secondary. Children continually snack throughout the day and their choices include chips, cookies, cakes, candy, and high calorie soda drinks.
There is an imbalance between what a child takes in for food and drinks as opposed to what they actually need. This combine with their environment, their metabolism, physical activity, genes and their normal growth and development and you have the ingredients that contribute to weight gain. It is not just one thing it’s all of them combined that leads to obesity. (Education, Inc.) It is a proven fact that children who have overweight parents run a higher risk for also being obese. In their home environment the parents may exhibit unhealthy eating habits as well as little or no exercise. The children do not know better and think this is an acceptable way of life. Video games and watching TV are also on the rise. The ratio between sitting and being sedentary is beginning to take its toll on children. What is accepted as normal and what the children are allowed to watch is also not balanced. How many kids are going home from school and rushing to the computer or their favorite video game system even on the sunniest of days. You do not burn off calories sitting in front of a TV. Parents must be role models and exhibit an active life style. Poor eating habits contribute to unnecessary weight gain. Today everything is about quantity. How big are food portions becoming? We live in a society that has come to believe in “super size.” Super size the fries, and drinks. The hamburger becomes the double burger. Sugar sweetened drinks are very high in calories. Combine all these factors and what are we getting - fat kids! Many children run out of the house in the morning to catch a bus or to get to school and they skip breakfast. By the time lunch comes around they are so hungry they gobble down lunch and anything else they can find. If they wait to eat till after school then it is likely the children are eating non-energy, high sugar snacks, and sugar drinks. These children must participate in physical activities. They need to get off the couch and participate in an active lifestyle. Without physical activities children and adolescents will begin seeing more and more medical problems such as high blood pressure and limited bone strength. It makes sense that an active childhood will form good workout skills that enable children to continue on to be active in their adulthood. At least 30 minutes of physical movement in each day...