April 7th, 2010
Obesity among Children and Adolescents
Obesity has been a controversial issue for years. Childhood obesity is already an epidemic in some areas and is on the rise in others. Although rare in the past, obesity is now amongst some of the most widespread issues affecting our children and adolescents living in the United States today. Childhood obesity is harmful to not only the child’s present lifestyle but it also affects the child’s future. Obesity in children is on the rise due to parenting style, inadequate exposure to healthy foods at a young age, availability of unhealthy foods, lack of education and awareness of the side effects and risks, and an increase in sedentary behavior. Obesity is a serious concern that affects our children and adolescents today. Obesity in children can be defined as a body weight of at least 20% higher than of the healthy weight for a child of that height, or a body fat percentage above 25% in boys or above 32% in girls (Ferry). While more children are becoming overweight, the already heavy children are getting even heavier. Obesity has a profound effect on a child’s life. Its effects include numerous health problems, emotional or psychological distress, and social problems. Studies have shown that overweight children are more likely to grow up to become overweight adults. For example, one study found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at 10 to 15 years old were obese at 25 (Bellows and Roach).
Parenting styles are a very influential factor that can lead to obesity in children and adolescents. Many parents rely on a parenting technique called the reward system. The reward system is used to get children to do what they are told to, and in return they receive a treat. Most of the time this treat is in the form of something sweet such as candy, chocolate, or ice cream or sometimes even going out to eat at their favorite place. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician with BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital, makes an interesting point. She said “Rewarding children with food is not a good idea. It elevates the status of food and makes certain foods or treats more valuable to children” (Anding). Parents don’t realize that this way of rewarding their child just leads to them eating more unhealthy foods than they already consume on a daily basis. By continuing to use this system, the child catches on to the idea of doing as the parent says and they will get the food of their choice regardless of whether it’s healthy or not. This cycle just goes on and on and continues to add to the amount of sugars and unhealthy foods your child will consume. This overconsumption of unhealthy foods will put your child in danger of becoming overweight or obese at a young age.
Parents are responsible for the food their child eats are home. Early imprinting will help alter their taste perceptions at a young age (Anding). Children develop their tastes and likings of a food at a young age. Many parents chose to give their child anything he or she is willing to eat. They believe that as long as the child eats it’s not a big deal what the food item is. This thought can be proven harmful to their child later on. If the child is introduced to unhealthy foods and has been brought up eating them, then most likely the child will continue to make unhealthy food choices throughout their life. It is the parent’s duty to ensure that their child is exposed and produces a taste for healthy foods. Developing these healthy eating habits early on will help your child avoid falling into the trap of childhood obesity.
The environment and people around children and adolescents play a big role in the choices they make. The home, child care, school, and community environments can influence children's behaviors related to the food they eat. Child care providers and schools share responsibility with the parents for children during their important developmental years. Children...