Eating The Hand That Feeds: A Look Into Nature Vs Nurture With Childhood Obesity

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With obesity in America rising more and more every day the question must be asked, who is to blame? Today children ages 2-19 have an 18.5% chance of becoming obese during their childhood and adolescence (CDC, 2020). That being said there must be something that could be done to help kids with weight gain, but do the parents need help or does everybody need help? The argument of Nature vs. Nurture evaluates this question precisely. Do parents feed their children too much food? Does society force kids to have an unhealthy diet? If these questions aren’t answered soon then many hardships and consequences could befall the next generations for years to come.

Around 40 years ago, the rate of obese children was substantially low, but there has been a 300% rise since then (Brownback 2008). Although there are many sources to blame, one has to look at how food has changed. The last couple of decades have shown a large increase in the rise of the human population, and more humans mean more mouths to feed. The solution to this problem would seem to be finding a means to acquire a way to produce more food. Now the entire argument of G.M.O. ‘s (genetically modified organism) could be discussed entirely in its own paper, so this paper will not discuss them. The problem with multiplying food extensively is having to supply the right kind of nutrition, especially with children. Many fast-food franchises have kids meals that have too many calories, and it begins to turn unhealthy for the little ones (Santrock 207).

Another form of nature can be found in public schools where many children spend their time. There are two important factors of childhood obesity that can be found in schools, which are exercise and nutrition. When it comes to many cafeterias the general rule is that 30% of the total intake of calories should come from fat, while less than 10% of the calories should come from saturated fat. Therefore schools provide meals that satisfy these requirements, but they also provide snacks, which are much more unhealthy than what children are supposed to eat. A study was shown that kids are more likely to pick the ladder between the two options (Koplan 2005).

The other side of the coin as far as school is concerned is actual physical movement. Physical education at one point in time was a mandatory class, but as time went by it became less common to see them as a required class. While President Obama was in office, his wife introduced an activity plan for children in grades K-12. This movement did become increasingly popular but even now in 2020, not every student is required to take a P.E. class. The evidence shows that some sort of fitness program for kids can actually help. In Georgia 2017, a study was given to test the differences in the overall BMI of kids in a P.E. class. It showed that being kids not active had a 42% chance at falling above the required BMI (Kibbe 2017).

When it comes to the nurture part of the argument, parents, and parenting are the main parts that are discussed. During infancy is a very crucial time for the development of the body, and therefore nutrition is all the more important. In fact, its shown that parents who don’t show much attention to their children’s nutritional needs during the first 15-24 months, tend to have obese adolescents (Santrock 115). Although parents are not the only ones to blame as many of the food choices outside the home are also very fatty. Some people spend lots of money to eat healthier when all they have to do is cut out unhealthy snacks. With as popular as marketing is and how many people remain loyal to their favorite brands, more businesses should encourage healthier lifestyles with regular exercise and a healthy diet (Koplan 2005).

The part of the argument where nature seems to be a prevailing factor with childhood obesity is with exercise and screen time. Parents can either encourage their children to be active by supporting them and helping them where they need to be or they can choose to let their kids have screen time. It is shown that adolescents who have more screentime not only have sleeping problems but they also tend to be more obese (Santrock 206) Besides that the younger the kids are starting to get just as bad. When little kids are spending more than two hours in a day watching TV or playing video games, it takes away from the time they should be spending playing with friends and starting social interactions (Brownback 2008). Especially with the increase in the popularity of being a social media influencer or a Youtuber, kids are almost encouraged by society to stay home on their screens. If parents don’t go out of their way to prevent this then they become the blame for their kid’s obesity.

When the discussion of childhood obesity comes down to the actual Nature vs Nurture it seems like it can be broken down into three categories; nutrition, activity, and childhood. First, nutrition is on both levels. On the one hand parents can decide what they feed their kids, they can go out of the way to provide healthy alternatives or they can join most of the American parents and their toddlers eat french fries, the most commonly eaten vegetable for children (Santrock 207). Although the thing that can influence parents is nature or society. Today it is so convenient to go through the drive-through and get a meal, the only problem is that most fast food places have meals whose calorie count is higher than what should be expected for something so commonly eaten. As a society, we continue to encourage these unhealthy meals and embrace money. Instead, more companies who wish to encourage physical activity, and support healthier eating habits (Koplan 2005).

Activity is a hard topic to discuss as there has always been a split in both nature and nurture. With nature, society has always awarded those who work hard and are athletic, but there isn’t much hatred towards the lazier people. In Georgia, they encouraged counts across the state to start a program to influence physical activity, and it proved to be successful in 42% of the time (Kibbe 17). In the case of nurture, however, parents can encourage physical activity. Not only does it help with social skills but at a young age doing something with built-up energy is important. The more energy kids get the more they want to put out which leads to the burning of calories (Koplan 2005).

One argument that should be brought up is the effect of lower-income households. Not only do we see an increase in delinquency, as well as obesity. It should be logical that the reason that kids are obese is that their families can’t afford, or don’t spend money on good nutritious food. Once again nutrition being such a vital part of health especially in youth should be regulated. Perhaps there isn’t a black and white solution but with low-income families dealing with malnutrition or obesity, there is a problem (Santrock 206). That being said the food stamp and social security programs still do a good job of providing food for the less fortunate.

On the note of problems in the system, there are a few solutions that could be discussed. The matter of food being produced in bulk, without nutrition could be possibly fixed by the people supporting smaller, more organic methods of gathering food. As much as the entire food market has industrialized, it seems that healthy alternatives are being sacrificed in the name of making a buck (Koplan 2005). The solution doesn’t have to require completely changing diets, rather than simply supporting more local farms. Another problem is how much time children spend on screens, rather than reality. The solution is simply encouraging children to get outside and enjoy life. Although if people continue to follow in these footsteps they also run into financial difficulties. In the year 2007, the estimated cost of treating diabetes nationwide was around $132 billion dollars per year (Brownback 2007). Sadly it is rare that the answer is ever just ever simply black and white.

In conclusion, the argument of nature vs. nurture helped organize all of the different problems and where they are sourced. While society is at fault because of the struggle of gaining nutritious food, parents aren’t doing any better of a job at reducing screen time or encouraging physical activity. Until both nature and nurture solve their problems, there will always be obese children. Hopefully, as the awareness of overweight children is made known, there will follow a decrease in the numbers.

In my research, I have learned many things about childhood obesity and I was able to develop a strong opinion. During my childhood I was obese, so this topic definitely struck out to me. Not only was I able to relate with most of what I was reading but I also was able to learn some more about myself. The topic of Nature vs Nurture is always going to be an amazing way to analyze both sources of influence, whether it be by parenting or society. I must say that parenting has to be widely affected by society, or at least I felt I discovered it after completing my research.

I think that nature is what really affects childhood obesity. Not only do the times bring with them a new set of beliefs but it also brings around a new way to live, which is why obesity has increased so much in the last handful of decades. As I’ve mentioned many times before the rise of industrialized food is really hurting America with unhealthy snack alternatives. With fast food being rather unhealthy it’s a shame that it’s more convenient to drive to the local drive-thru and get a meal that has 93% of having a higher than the recommended amount of calories than it is to stay home and cook a healthier dinner (Santrock 207). The other part of the coin is, that the farmers who are trying to encourage healthier, more organic alternatives are forced to sell at a higher price, in order to keep up with today’s market. I dare say it is a catch 22.

As far as the argument of nurture goes, I feel that nature often undermines nurture. Unless your parents are upper class or have nicer jobs than a kid’s chance of having organic food is unlikely considering the price. If society was able to quit supporting the industry and their unhealthy food options, then parents could find it substantially easier to feed their kids good meals. Until that movement stops, organic food remains overpriced, cows and other such livestock eat many steroids to increase production, and America’s favorite little rug rats continue to grow obese.

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