We all know about “the fat kid” in school; we’ve sat next to him/her at lunch time and they’ve always asked, “are you gonna finish that?” Some of us have even LAUGHED at that “fat kid”, always teasing them because they can’t run as fast, or have trouble fitting into their desks at school. Sometimes it’s controlled by the foods we eat and sometimes it’s a result of our families or our environment, but childhood obesity is nothing to laugh about. It’s becoming a rising issue in the United States: childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past 30 years, with rates increasing from 6.5% to 19.6% from kids aged 6-11 years. Even more alarming, obesity in teens aged 12-19 years old has increased from 5.0% to a staggering 18.1%.
We begin to identify this issue by knowing the facts: obesity happens when too few calories are expended and too many calories are taken in. Let’s say each day, Mike loses 300 cal running a race, but eats a 2300 cal meal. Over time, Mike stops running the races, but continues to eat a 2300 cal meal without exercising. If Mike continues this habit, by the end of the year, he will most likely be a candidate for childhood obesity. Even more, Mike is at risk for many short-term and long-term physical and psychological problems, including sleep apnea, hypertension, and various self-esteem issues as well. These are only but a FEW examples of what symptoms develop in children who are obese.
Now, this problem may be a result of genetics, environment, and/or behavioral factors. For example, a child whose family has a history of obesity will most likely develop this as well. Also, the environment in which a child grows influences the chances of obesity. If a child is chronically exposed to a lot of unhealthy, processed foods, that may contribute to the overall result of their being obese. Sometimes these will go hand-in-hand with the behavioral aspect; if a child is raised on unhealthy foods at school and at home, over time, they will carry that behavioral “practice” into adulthood. This is extremely dangerous; not only will the physical problems become worse, but should he/she decide to have their own children, they too may also be at risk for obesity, thus continuing the vicious “cycle” of unhealthy living. (To learn more from Dr. Owens about how obesity develops and affects us, click here.)
The good news is that you can provide healthier alternatives to prevent obesity. Even better, this doesn’t ONLY apply to children; adults can follow these steps too! Here are some simple steps:
- Fruit “Punch” – Fruits are an awesome and natural substitute to many processed, sugary snacks. They also provide your body with the necessary nutrients needed to boost your immune system and metabolism.
- Water It Down – Our bodies are an estimated 70% water, and we lose a significant amount on a daily basis. So why replenish our systems with soda? Drinking at least 2qt of water daily helps you feel fuller, restores hydration to the skin, and also lessens the strain on your digestive system.
- Sweat Over 30 – A good, beneficial exercise routine should last at least 30 – 45min, enough time to make you sweat. Sweat releases toxins and triggers endorphins, hence the feeling of satisfaction one gets after working out. Developing and maintaining healthy activities for both you AND your child will help decrease their risk of obesity.
- Set The Example – as adults, we know what’s healthy and what’s not; our children may not always be aware. By bettering our food choices and teaching our children to do the same, they too will grow into the habit of making healthy decisions for themselves and even THEIR children.
At AskDrO.com, we believe that a healthy mind makes for a healthy body. Childhood obesity is an issue that affects not only the body, but the mind as well. If you OR or your child may be suffering psychological effects as a result from obesity or other issues, take the Dr. Owens Mental Health Prescreen Assessment and check your mental status!