Childhood Obesity: Cause and Effect
December 3, 2012
Gone are the days of children playing hide and seek outside, walking long distances to and from school, walking to a friend’s house to play on the weekends and walking to the bus stop to go to mall with friends and in essence exerting physically. It is rare to find a child carrying a sack lunch to school which would include a healthy lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an apple and perhaps a cookie or chips being the unhealthiest part of the lunch. Child Obesity is the result of poor nutrition at home and our school system as well as the lack of children playing outside, physical education programs being cut from our schools and technology causing the child to be in front of a computer and sedentary versus outside playing. Awareness of proper nutritional choices for children needs to begin at home and reinforced by offering correct food choices and educated in classrooms to our children in our schools. The results of obese children, specifically teenagers, range from bulimia, poor self-esteem and body dysmorphia as well as physical and emotional health issues. Between the mental and physical issues caused by childhood obesity the problem is one that needs to be dealt with on a global level. Both genes and environment contribute to obesity, but the interaction is far from simple. Childhood obesity is a multidimensional condition with many interrelated causes. There is considerable evidence that obesity is at least partly genetic. Certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to obesity and obesity-related disorders. Some genes are associated with a higher body mass index. However, the important change in obesity rates over the past 10-20 years speaks against genetic implication and in favor of strong environmental influences. Because of famine in our past, genes that help people to gain weight easily are an asset because they are less likely to starve to death and can pass those genes on to their children. As a result, it is believed that many people now carry these famine resistant genes. But in an environment like ours, where food is abundant and exercise is optional, the genes become a liability (Daneman & Hill, 2006-2007). Adolescents are particularly susceptible because they follow the direction of peers, parents and society. Children have little or no control over what and when they eat. They tend to have the same eating habits and physical activity as their families which are another, environmental, reason why obesity often runs in the family. The problem of childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise (Obesity in Children and Teens, March 2011). Clinical Psychologist and Adolescent Therapist Suzanne Russell Thornberry states that, “Combining regular exercise with weekly talk sessions in therapy has the best outcome for treating childhood depression and poor body image in obese children (Moreno, Pigeot & Ahrens, 2012). The serotonin release exercise induces is quite productive in treating depression as well as creating a long term goal to accomplish positive weight loss daily and weekly and essentially building positive long term life choices” (S. Thornberry, 2012). When children become goal orientated regarding healthy food choices and exercise regularly the choices become habitual. Other environmental factors are the cause of childhood obesity as well. There is mounting evidence that the...
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