Obesity epidemic: Take action

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Jan 8, 2014

 

How many parents honestly believe their child is obese?

What if I told you one in five children are considered obese? 

This is a bigger problem than anyone could imagine, and your child may face major consequences from the choices made during their childhood years. Also, bullying is a huge issue today and children are picked on due to their weight, That can severely impact a child and create low self- esteem. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States. It has more than tripled over the last 30 years.

Parents need to take action to change this problem.

So many factors led to this problem, which is spiraling out of control. One of the greatest problems is affordability and access. So many healthy foods are expensive, thus lower income families just cannot afford them. There is also the trend of increasing portion sizes. Junk food and beverage sizes have increased over the years, especially at fast food restaurants. 

Sedentary lifestyles and the lack exercise also factor in the equation. The American Pediatric Academy recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. How many parents believe that their children get one hour of aerobic activity per day? If there isn’t enough time in a family’s schedule to fit this in, try 20 minutes a few times a day, and try to do something that interests the child. 

Children need this, and that means go outside, play a game or run around. Limit their time with Facebook, video games and iPads. Children spend an average of 4.5 hours in front of a television and another three hours using entertainment technology. Take an hour of that time and get your child moving.

Making little dietary changes will make the biggest difference in your child. Start buying more fruits and vegetables. Give your child some apple slices with peanut butter, instead of a bag of Cheetos. Have your child drink skim milk, instead of whole (Vitamin D) milk. Start giving your child water to drink instead of sugary drinks. Even 100 percent fruit juice provides very little nutrition and is loaded with sugar, with calories ranging anywhere from 110 to 160 calories. 

One of the most important things you can do as a parent/guardian is lead by example. What your children see is what they know. If parents exercise, that child will most likely be active. Don’t expect a child to eat vegetables if the parent doesn’t eat them. Children model from their parents. By making these changes parents will be surprised by how much of an impact they will make on their child’s life.

In the most recent Community Health Assessment done by the Erie County Health Department, 24 percent of children in Erie County have high BMI (Body Mass Index). In the age group 13 and younger, 13 percent were considered overweight and 11 percent obese. In the age group of 14 to 16, 8 percent were overweight and 23 percent were obese. The 17-to 18-year-olds have an obesity rate of 27 percent. 

 This is a growing problem in our youth at all ages. The 2011 health assessment asked adolescents to describe their weight and exercising habits. Only 28 percent felt that they were overweight and 63 percent stated they got 60 minutes of activity at least 3 times a week. The health department is getting ready to gather data for another health assessment, which would further allow us to track this information and change this problem.

Along with the lifestyle issues, there are also other issues that could be causing your child to be overweight or obese. Medications, such as steroids, have side effects of weight gain. Genetics also play a key factor in contributing to weight. If a child’s parents are obese there is a good chance a child may be overweight. If both of the child’s parents are obese the odds are even greater that the child will be overweight. Obesity at such a young age puts children at risk for diabetes, heart issues, cancer, and death. They also experience sleep apnea and just poor self-esteem. If a child is obese during youth years, odds are they will be obese as an adult. 

Our youth is our future. Parents and the community should do everything possible to give them a healthy start.

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Editor's note: Sarah M Ransom is the food service director for the Margaretta school district. She has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition/dietetics and previously worked for the Erie County Health Department. She is a member of the Leadership EC leadership training program.  

 

Comments

coasterfan

Great article, Sarah. Perception truly is reality. My brother-in-law and his wife (both great people) are morbidly obese with 2 elementary-age sons. Their older son is of normal build and the other is already in the 99th percentile of weight for his age. They often comment that the older is "skinny" and the younger is "just right".

I've seen surveys that cite that more than 50% of Americans say they exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 days a week. I'm one of those people, but I have to say that I rarely see more than 30 people exercising at the local indoor rec center during the winter. When I jog outside during warmer months, I see maybe half that many who are out exercising - out of a population of 30,000+