Monday, June 9, 2014

Children and Obesity: A growing Epidemic

   The United States has two current epidemics: starvation, and obesity. How that makes any sense blows my mind. While both are extremely threatening to a persons health, I'm going to focus on childhood obesity. Children cannot make too many of their own choices when it comes to diet and nutrition; they can eat what is provided to them. This means it is the job of the parent to provide them with all of their nutritional needs. I am not a parent, but I see more and more obese children each day. Letting them have ice cream for dinner once in a while might be okay, but every day isn't. Letting them sit in front of the TV for hours or sit out in gym class isn't helping them either. They learn by example, which means the parents have to be active and eat healthy too which unfortunately seems to be on the decline. You might think the "baby weight" is okay or that they will grow out of it but you aren't doing them any favors, and the health risks are very high.
   Children who suffer from obesity have a much larger chance of it developing into type 2 diabetes. While children used to only be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (Juvenile diabetes), many more are now being diagnosed with type 2 which is a result of their diet. Obese children also suffer from numerous psychological issues including low self esteem. Today, 33% of children and adolescents are considered not just overweight, but obese, meaning they have a BMI of over 30. Obese children are also much more likely to have higher risk for cardiovascular disease and bone and joint problems from growing bones having to support the excess weight. These are all serious health problems that need to be changed.

   I'm sure some of you have heard in the news that some schools were starting to make changes in their nutrition plans and even sending some children home with a letter from the nurse if they had a BMI that classified them as overweight or obese, and parents became outraged. Why? Probably because it made them feel like a bad parent, because let's face it, the school nurse wasn't trying to be a bully, she was simply pointing out facts about your child's health. If you have an obese child, not all hope is lost but it is time to make changes.
   Educate your children on healthy choices, portion control, and general nutrition. Make sure they know how important it is to get outside or be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Start doing family walks or activities that promotes health. I'll never forget, when I was a server this family used to bring their 3 year old in and let him have soda, an entire small pizza, an order of french fries, and then ice cream. He was so overweight that his muscles couldn't support his weight and he had to be carried everywhere. But, as the family said, he was so happy and just loved pizza and ice cream. All I saw was a 3 year old who weighed around 100 pounds and couldn't even walk because his family let him have whatever he wanted. That isn't doing the child any favors! You are setting them up for a lifetime of problems, mentally and physically. It's disappointing but bullying is a very real problem these days and low self esteem can create a whole new world of problems, including depression. I go to the zoo and parks, and I see children who could easily walk being pushed in a stroller. I understand they might not walk as fast as you, but you are probably there for them anyways. You as a parent have to create the healthy environment and it will benefit the whole family.

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