Today's youth are the people who will control America's future: its business leaders, workers, politicians, military leaders, and most importantly, our country's future parents. We must therefore do all we can to ensure that our children grow up to be responsible, capable individuals who can fulfill the task so that America remains a strong country generation after generation.
But there is a problem afoot. According to the Centers of Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. This is an alarming trend that needs to be studied closely, for it poses a threat to our future. These are the figures:
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. To put this into perspective, if you were to gather 100 random teens across the country, 18 of them would be obese.
- In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
- Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
Obese adolescents are at a greater risk to develop premature cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease such as diabetes. If it continues into adulthood, they are at high risk to develop one of many types of cancers. They are also prone to develop bone and joint pain, sleep apnea, and psychological problems like low self-esteem. And as recent news indicates, overweight adolescents are at a greater risk of being a victim of school bullying.
It is therefore important for parents to aggressively do all they can to bring their child to a normal, healthy weight as soon as possible. Their future depends on those efforts.
WHAT TO DO:
If your child is not obese: Prevention is the best strategy. Set an example by having healthy food accessible around the home, and eating it yourself in front of your children. Sit down family dinners are extremely helpful. Spend more time in the kitchen preparing meals from scratch and less time surfing the web. Make health a priority in the household. Tell your child to slow down when eating and enjoy the experience. Avoid fast food joints.
If your child is already overweight or obese: Find out what is going on. Is healthy living being made a priority in the household? Is your child eating not because of hunger but rather for comfort? If you the parent are obese as well, it will be difficult to convince your child to change his/her eating habits. It will be critical for you to get down to a healthy weight; if not for you, for the sake of your child's future health. This alone can convince your child that you are serious, and can be very effective in motivating him/her to do the same.
We live in an obesigenic world, where our environment and lifestyle is filled with things that promote inactivity and eating high-calorie, nutrient-poor food. It is important to identify these things so that you can protect yourself and your family from falling into the obesity trap.
There is a weight loss discussion group that meets every Thursdays at 5:30 PM in San Ramon. The focus of the group is to teach ways to make small, incremental changes in your life that will lead to healthier choices. For more information, call (925) 788-6253.