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Growing Problem of Childhood Obesity

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    Childhood obesity can be very harmful for our nation’s children and not only cause health problems but psychological issues as well. We made assumptions when they were young where the fat would melt away and a healthy adult would emerge. Unfortunately for some adolescence this was not the case. One section that I related to and wanted to acknowledge in chapter 5 was the idea that us Hispanic and African American were more at risk than others due to genetic factors and early eating habits (Taylor, 2010). Coming from a Hispanic culture, I know firsthand what it was like seeing all of my cousins at family events who were ages 7-14 and a little on the heavier side constantly teased about the way we ate. It was a contradictory where in our culture we like to cook food with an abundance amount of seasoning and serve big portions, not to mention it was expected that we ate every bit of it as it was considered otherwise “disrespectful”. So it was a difficult situation in whether we should eat more or eat less to meet our families expectations or societies. We are not taking this as serious as we should because we think of children just being kids who do not know any better. It is crucial that we start observing the causes of childhood obesity and can slow down the epidemic as all children of different ages and backgrounds are affected.

    The mechanism of obesity is believed to be a disorder with multiple causes at an early age. Factors such as cultural, environmental, and lifestyle preferences all play a role in the rising prevalence worldwide. Sahoo et al. (2015) argued that parental factors make a major impact on whether the child prefers to model their loved one’s behavior or unwillingness to try new foods. Children today do not know how to eat healthy. We as a nation are not helping either when we are telling these kids by fast food commercials, cereal commercials containing a lot of sugar etc that these are healthy only in moderation. Fresh fruit and vegetables have been replaced by cheeseburgers and French fries since many families opt in fast food because of the convenience and inexpensive choices. By telling these children “to choose a quick place to grab something to eat” they have no choice but to favor these unhealthy food choices that hold little nutritional value. Parents would rather buy a happy meal than to spend some time cooking at home since they work long hours and ultimately become exhausted by the end of the night. Family time has changed compared to years ago where there was no television or any internet access. Now is the time where we witness children eating in their bedroom and occasionally snacking too much in between breaks from video games or ads (Ebbeling, Pawlak, & Ludwig 2002). These children need social support from their parents and others especially with participation in physical activity.

    According to the center for disease control & prevention (2016), “the prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents” which is an alarming figure. One of the main causes is the lack of physical activity. It seems to be an ongoing issue the youth has the most problems with even as an obvious case. In the textbook (Taylor, 2010) it states that obese children spent less time in moderate and vigorous physical activity or the most television viewing than their non-obese counterparts who enjoyed playing outside and gym time at school. Although some of the physical activity in schools have been pushed out to make room for other academics making it harder to become active elsewhere other than home. The physical education is becoming less clear in high school and a change in PE attendance. While elementary schools are also making changes reducing or deleting recess time. The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education recently stressed the importance of recess and free play, with a 25 percent drop in play and 50 percent drop in unstructured outdoor activities (Anderson & Butcher 2006). In addition these children are being driven to school rather than walking, unable to join a sports team without schedule flexibility from their parents work, or simply not encouraged enough to apply an activity “out of their comfort zone”. In response to the significant influence that the cultural environment has on a child, the lack of knowledge in calorie and fat intake towards meeting a healthier diet is not being met either.

    Once a child becomes obese, it is recognized that they need a much larger number of calories than non-obese individuals in order to receive that necessary energy to maintain and move around (Taylor, 2010). High calorie food such as baked goods and vending machine snacks which they supply in almost every school now are playing a role in weight gain. Study shows that snacking accounts for up to 27 percent of the daily caloric intake for children, age 2 to 18, according to findings by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (“Yale School of Medicine Staff”, 2010). A significant evidence has shown children consuming sugary beverages such as fruit juices without realizing how much they are consuming throughout the day or week is harming them in the long run (Sahoo et al. 2015). Given that they are being supplied with these kinds of foods, they are not being educated enough to realize when to control their behavior. These children can face serious implications as they transition to adulthood if the causes are not addressed immediately and taken seriously. Taking measures early on can direct the child to the right path.

    There a few methods in helping children who suffer with obesity. Since parents shape their children’s lifestyle they can start by serving smaller portions, giving variety such as veggies and grains, or control how much they eat within a given day. Since we cannot control environmental factors such as fast food restaurants and the changes made within schools, parents can help to make little changes in the comfort of their home. Mindfulness treatment can also be an effective treatment to prevent or treat obesity. According to an article, “mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesity, alter eating behavior and improve health in obesity” (Rshikesan, Subramanya, & Nidhi 2016). Yoga has shown to have positive health benefits in loss in weight and body mass. It can be a tremendous healing process when one is able to find their own self and explore one’s physical self. It must be acknowledged that early prevention of obesity is only one step to combat the obesity epidemic.

    We need to be attentive in educating children and adults the consequences of early childhood obesity. This can decrease the likelihood of any increase in prevalence and become more responsible of our actions. We need to also understand that anyone can be affected no matter the circumstances. Some may be more prevalent than others but it is indeed a worldwide issue. Causes such as lack of physical activity, parental factors, and lack of educating are only some issues that can take a toll on a child. Together we can improve a successful and a longer lifespan for these children as they age to become healthy adults.

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