Much more than an aesthetic issue, childhood obesity is a major health problem. Today, one in five school-age children fulfill the medical definition of obese, weighing 25% more than the ideal for his or her height and age (Spake 40). In the last decade, the incidence of obesity among children ages 6-11 has doubled, and in adolescents it has tripled (Spake 40). A growing wave of obesity among children is helping to fuel a parallel epidemic in the rate of diabetes, especially Type II diabetes, the so-called non-insulin-dependent diabetes (Childhood Obesity). This is a dangerous disease that once struck mostly at middle age. How much of this will a parent ignore before the consequences become real? Diabetes is not the only issue; overweight children may also have greater difficulty with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, orthopedic problems, heart disease, stroke, sleeping habits, as well as having low self-esteem, and problems with peer relationships (Childhood Obesity). All of these are symptoms that can carry over into their adult lives if left untreated. There is no single cause of obesity, but parents need to be aware of signs this growing problem in their own family.
There are several theories to try to explain or to just shift the blame for the problem. Some children don't get the exercise they need daily, some children are heavy simply because of genetic factors, and also many children are not getting the proper nutritional meals that they need to be healthy. Years ago, kids used to go outside and play after school or hop on their bikes and ride around the neighborhood until it was time for dinner. However, the increase of two-income households has left kids stranded in after-school and extended day-care programs (T.L. 84). Sports used to be the ultimate school-time activity with a vast range of events to participate in. But now, parents aren't comfortable with unsupervised outdoor activity and indoor activities are becoming more prevalent (T.L. 84). The choice is easier to make because doing those indoor activities take less effort than doing something outside.
First came television, followed by cable and digital hi-def. Video games evolved from Pong to Tomb Raider. Finally came the Internet and the IM monster. Now children sit and click (T.L. 84). As a result, we have a generation of kids who spend their time watching television, playing video games and surfing the Internet. The trance-like state associated with these activities slows down their metabolism so much that it's as if they aren't doing anything at all. The slower metabolism certainly won't help burn the excessive calories likely to have been in the child's dinner.
Families no longer eat regular meals together, and home cooking is no longer the primary source of meals for many people. Mom's baked potato has been replaced by a super-sized order of fries cooked in beef fat. Greasy and sugar-laden fast food is cheap, tasty, and available everywhere, which only increases the temptation for parents and children alike. Many parents are exhausted once they arrive home after working and have a hungry child to feed. The temptation to run to a fast-food restaurant for dinner is often too powerful to resist. "They make it so easy for you to `biggie size' everything," says Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders (Spake 40). Once a routine of fast-food eating is set, it's hard to break.
Not all obese infants become obese children, and not all...