Fighting Childhood Obesity Starts at Home

It is a fact that in many western societies people generally get fat. This is reflected in the popularity of diet books and fitness equipment. But while most of us are aware that it would be good to lose some weight, we are only vaguely aware of the staggering levels of “obesity” in our societies. We are even less aware of the impact this has on our children and the widespread existence of childhood obesity.

What is Obesity?

Generally speaking, a person is considered “obese” when the amount of fat stored in their body compromises their health. Here are some recent OECD statistics showing how widespread the obesity problem is:

Percentage of the Population (over 15 years old) who are obese

USA – 30.6%

Mexico – 24.2%

United Kingdom – 22.4%

Australia – 21.7%

New Zealand – 17%

Canada – 14.9%

Germany – 12.9%

France – 9.4%

In other words, nearly 1 in 3 Americans and roughly 1 in 5 Australians are overweight enough to experience health problems because of this.

Obesity Causes

As individuals, we tend to rationalize our tendency to be overweight or obese. We often blame things like heredity or glandular imbalance, and while those things often make a difference, the primary cause of most obesity is pretty simple. When a person consumes more calories than they burn, they gain weight.

In other words, there are two important factors involved – diet and activity level. And it seems pretty clear that both things take a hit in countries with high levels of obesity. Western diets are flooded with more fat and sugar than ever before, people often become more sedentary and do less physical exercise – they sit at the computer all day and in front of the TV all night.

Consequences of an Obese Lifestyle

Obesity has surpassed communicable diseases as the most important contributors to poor health worldwide.

Diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, heart disease, stroke, back and lower extremity weight-bearing degenerative problems, some types of cancer and depression have been linked to obesity.

In fact, it is estimated that around 500,000 deaths occur annually due to malnutrition and physical inactivity. If this trend towards obesity is not reversed in the next few years, it will likely overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death.

Even more disturbing, when adults adopt an obese lifestyle, they are more likely to pass on their eating and activity habits to their children. This resulted in a dramatic increase. obesity in children.

Obesity in children

Childhood obesity has become commonplace in many countries. For example, obesity in children and adults in the United States is estimated to have increased by more than 30% in the last 10 years alone.

The reasons are clear. Children are exposed to an obese lifestyle in all aspects. Many families have swapped high-fat, high-sugar snacks and soft drinks for regular, balanced meals. Or they stopped preparing meals at home — the proportion of food that children consume from restaurants and fast food outlets increased nearly 300% between 1977 and 1996.

Children are also the target of a constant barrage of advertisements promoting highly processed junk food. And in many cases, normal physical activity that has been part of childhood for generations has been restricted by safety concerns or completely replaced by sedentary activities such as playing video games or watching TV.

Consequences of childhood obesity

Obesity is never a good thing. But obesity in children is particularly bad. Once fat cells are formed in the body, they cannot be eliminated by normal diet or increased physical activity. So an obese child normally carries his obesity into adulthood.

On the other hand, if a child learns good eating and exercise habits as a child, they will carry these habits and this knowledge into adulthood.

What Can Be Done Against Childhood Obesity?

It is up to parents and other adults to teach responsible alternatives to the obese lifestyle. Parents should first become aware of the problems related to their personal and family eating habits and activity levels, and then make adjustments that will have a lifelong positive impact on their children.

An effective way is to take the “AKA” approach — Awareness your problem. Information Action designed to bring about lifestyle changes and what to do about it. Children have an innate thirst for knowledge, a deep desire to improve their self-image, and they will love the attention you give them as you develop a plan for a healthier lifestyle for your entire family.

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