Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic, affecting 17% of American adolescents. As these young people mature into obese adults, it will further strain the health and productivity of the nation. In this article, we'll look at some of the causes of childhood obesity and ways that parents can set examples for a healthy lifestyle.
Causes Of Childhood Obesity
Kids don't simply become fat overnight. The two most common causes of childhood obesity are physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Society plays a huge role in this problem. Advertisements aimed at young consumers is commonplace. The sponsors of children's television programs often feature sweetened cereal and fast food advertisements, placing particular emphasis on friendships that can develop from eating together.
In reality those commercials are playing on group psychology via the bandwagon effect - when most people are doing something you should, too. When young people are constantly presented with images of other adolescents eating high calorie foods they'll become convinced that what they're seeing as natural behavior. This problem becomes amplified when they see classmates and peers overeating.
Government health officials point to the fact that many public school children have access to high calorie foods; some common places are vending machines, sporting events and fundraisers. With a limited number of options available to them, it's easy to understand why they may overconsume high calorie foods.
Parental involvement can't be overlooked. Lots of fat kids have fat parents. Parents who don't monitor what they eat are going to have a very difficult time setting proper nutrition examples for their children. Children learn by example and often emulate the behavior of adults. Which brings us to the next and most important section: what can parents do about obesity?
What Parents Can Do To Prevent Childhood Obesity
Parents can make healthy lifestyle a family tradition. First and foremost they must take a pro-active approach to the problem. Here are some common examples:
- Talking with your child. Child psychiatrist Foster W. Cline suggests a love-logic approach wherein parents and children have a gentle, productive conversation about overeating. When families participate in meaningful dialogue they develop a greater appreciation for each other, the exercise also teaches problem solving skills that the child can use to make better decisions about eating. In my opinion, part of this dialogue should include helping your child to remember that they have value in the eyes of God and to take comfort in Him rather than food.
- Paying close attention to the foods your child is eating and advertising strategies. Older adolescents are often allowed to purchase some of their own food items. Nonetheless parents should pay attention to the foods their children buy, encouraging them to look for healthier alternatives. Likewise, they should point out to their children that TV commercials featuring young people eating high calorie foods will become sick if they overeat.
- Participating in family recreation events. Families that play together stay together. Families can choose physical activities that promote team work and cooperation. Football, flying disk toss, and baseball are just a few of the many sports activities that families can do together.
- Encourage positive thinking. Confident, happy people tend to be healthier than people whom are unhappy (read my article "Be Happy To Be Alive" for more information on this topic). Parents should encourage their children to see the good within themselves and to never use food as a crutch against their problems.
The obesity epidemic is not irreversible, parents and children can turn the tide when they make a commitment to do so.
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Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Childhood | DNPAO |CDC http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
"Four Ways Parents Can Learn How To Prevent Obesity In Their Children" copyright © 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.