Obesity which is also referred to as overweight is a condition where the body has amassed excessive or abnormal fats that pose a health risk to an individual. To determine whether a person is obese, body mass index is used where the weight of the individual is divided by his or her height squared, when an individual body mass index is 30 and above the person is termed as obese and if the body mass index is 25 or more the individual is overweight. Obesity poses a health risk to individuals as it is associated with diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, breathing problems, some cancers and osteoarthritis (Ebbling, Powlak & Ludwing 473-475). Excessive intake of foods rich in calories, lack of exercise and inheritance has been know to be the major causes of obesity in a population
Childhood obesity is a severe medical issue that affects the children and adolescents. This kind of obesity crops up when a child’s weight is high as compared to his or her age. Childhood obesity is a risky condition as it poses great health problem to the child or the adolescent and it may lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and problems associated with high cholesterol in the body like heart diseases which initially affected the adults. Childhood obesity, moreover, has been known to cause liver problem, eating disorder, asthma, skin infection and other diseases. Furthermore, childhood obesity can lead to emotional and psychological problems in children and adolescents where the child may feel rejected by his / her peers, families and the society who tease, discriminate and harass them due to their weight; this may affect the child psychologically and he/ she may feel depressed especially when he/she compares his/ her body with that of the peers and may resent his/ her body and want to loose weight so and be like other children of his age (Institute of Medicine of National Academies). Being depressed or stress may affect the eating disorder of the child who instead of reducing food intake may eat more leading to him/her being more obese.
Reasons for existence of childhood obesity in United Sates of America
In the United States of America childhood obesity has increased drastically with about nine million children who are 6 years and above being obese regardless of their race and color of skin. Moreover, 5- 25 percent of children and adolescent in the United States of America are obese. This has been attributed to the following factors:
Limited exercise; children living in the suburbs and urban areas have limited exercise as they do not walk or play. Moreover, these children spend most of their time watching television, playing video games and watching movies this makes them gain weight and become obese. This is all attributed to the fact that these children eat foods that are rich in calories but they do not exercise leading to the food being transformed into fats that is stored in the body. Furthermore, when playing games they munch snack food like crisps which add to their fats intake (Robinson & Sirard 194-196). Moreover, the activity of watching television and movies only uses a small amount of energy thus all the foods that the children and adolescent consume is transformed into fats and stored in the body. Today, many children do not walk or ride to and from school but are either dropped by their parents or are picked by school bus, even when in school the time for physical education and exercise has reduce and children are spending most of their time in the classroom and a few hours are offered for physical exercise. This reduces physical activities that a child would have done if he walks or rides to school. This affect the digestion and assimilation of the foods they take and most of it is transformed into fats and stored in the body (Kaplan, Liverman & Kraak 131).
Dietary; children have different eating habits which is very difficult to determine. Both children and adolescent consume a lot of junk and snack food which contribute significantly to the increased fats in the body. Moreover, due to high cost of food and inadequate time for preparing foods, many families are resulting to consumption of the most convenient food and eating at fast food restaurants; these foods are rich in calories and fats. Besides eating at fast food restaurants, the adolescents consume a lot of soft drinks and parents are substituting whole milk of children with sweetened drinks; this has greatly added their calories intake and has lead to amassment of fats in their bodies (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwing 477-480). Furthermore, the access and affordability of fruits, vegetable and other nutritious foods like beans has been limited leading to families consuming less of these foods and more of the high calories affordable foods thus poor diet. This has resulted to children becoming obese due to high intake of high calories foods and less of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods.
Genetics; when the genes that control appetite and metabolism in children mutate, the child tend to eat and consume more of foods contain calories and fats. A research carried out in the USA showed that 80 percent of children with single locus mutation were obese. Moreover, children who were born to parent who were obese or have a family history of obese persons inherited these genes and become obese.
Developmental Factors; breastfeeding has been known to reduce the possibilities of a children being obese; however, this depended on the duration of breastfeeding i.e. When a child is breastfed for a longer time the chances of him/ her becoming obese is limited and when a child is breastfed for a shorter time he / she is at a risk of being obese (Institute of Medicine of National Academies). Moreover, when a baby is born overweight, he/ she is likely to be obese at the age of seven years and babies with normal weight are less likely to be obese.
Advertising and marketing; food industries and factories has increased the advertisement and marketing of their products. On the other hand, children watching these advertisements are drawn to the products and go to an extent of purchasing or pushing their parent to purchase these products for them (Kaplan, Liverman & Kraak 137). These products (candy, chocolate, snack food) are highly rich in calories and when consumed they are transformed to fats and stored in the body.
Solutions to childhood obesity
Physical Exercise/ Activity; since most children become obese because they do not exercise, it is advisable for the parent to allow their children take walks, play with other children so as to burn the excess fats that are in the body. Children should be allowed to walk to school as this increase their physical activity. Moreover, school programs should be rescheduled to include time for physical exercise which will allow children play with their friends and do other activities. Parents should also encourage and facilitate their children and adolescents to do physical exercise like going to the gym, running and walking rather than just sitting watching television (Robinson & Sirard 197-200). Besides reducing fats in the body, physical exercise helps improve blood lipid profile and reduces blood pressure; this reduces the chances of heart diseases and improves breathing.
Diet Management; since the eating habits of children and adolescent can not be predicted, it is advisable for parents to ensure that they control their intake of calories. Parents should avoid eating at fast food restaurant and prepare home made food for their children. This ensures that they prepare the food well with limited foods rich in calories. Moreover, parents should ensure that they include fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods in all meals; this ensures that the family feeds on a good diet meal. Parents should also control the amount of junk food and snacks that their children take, moreover, they should encourage their children to eat more of health foods and include fruits in their diet. When a child is at infancy stage, the mother should ensure that she breastfeed long enough and delay the introduction of solid food to the child (Ebbeling, Powlak &Ludwing 482). Furthermore, parent should attend nutrition training where they will be taught about the importance of good nutrition and how to supplement the unaffordable foods. Moreover, parents should educate their children on the importance of healthy eating and the risks of obesity. In addition, the parent should try and boost the self esteem and psychological disorders of the child as they may affect their eating habits leading to obesity
Behavior Adjustment; behavior adjustment involve a self evaluation and self monitoring where the children are involved in recording their food intake and physical exercise; this help the child reduce the amount of food they eat, where they are eating and limit the time of eating. Moreover, parent should recognize a positive behavior being portrayed by the child by rewarding him/ her which will help motivate the child to go with the good behavior, for instance, when a child reduce the intake of junk food and eat more fruit, the parent should give the child a gift as a reward for the achievement (Robinson & Sirard 200-01).
Childhood obesity may result to obesity in adulthood; however, not all obese adults were obese in their childhood. Obesity occurrence rate in both female and male increases as children grow. Obesity has been associated with health risks like coronary heart disease, stress on weight bearing joints, lower self esteem, psychological problems and relationships problem with the peers in both children and adults. These health risks associated with obesity are the main reason as to why parent should try and control the eating habits of their children at an early age. Moreover, parent with a history of obesity in their family should take precaution as to prevent his/ her child from becoming obese. It is therefore advisable to help children who are obese to reduce weight so that their self esteem and relationship wit their peers improve. This can be achieved through physical exercise where the child should involve hi/ her self in physical exercise that will help burn excess fats in the body, diet management where the food intake of the child should be minimized and should entail more fruit, vegetables among other nutrition food and finally behavior modification where the child should be taught on change of eating habit so as to eat less health foods.
Robinson, T. & Sirard, J. Preventing childhood obesity: A solution-oriented research paradigm. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2005 Volume 28, Issue 2, Page194-201.
Ebbeling, C., Pawlak, D. & Ludwig, D. Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. The Lancet, 2000 Volume 360, Issue 9331, Pages 473-482.
Koplan, J., Liverman, C. & Kraak, V. Preventing childhood obesity: Health in the balance: Executive summary. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2001 Volume 105, Issue 1, Pages 131-138.
Institute of Medicine of National Academies. Childhood Obesity in United States: Facts and Figures. Fact Sheet, 2004.