Children and Obesity

Obesity is the problem of having an excess amount of body fat. There is no true definition of obesity in children like there is for adults. Most professionals use a modified BMI for a child's age to measure obesity. And yet others define obesity in children as having a body weight at least 20% more than a healthy weight or a body fat percentage that is above 25% in boys and above 32% in girls. Obesity is now among the most widespread medical problem affecting children and adolescents living in the United States today. "About 15% of adolescents (aged 12-19 years) and children (aged 6-11 years) are obese in the United States according to the American Obesity Association" (Anderson and Butcher, n.d.). These numbers are expected to continue to increase because childhood obesity represents one of our greatest health challenges today (Anderson and Butcher, n.d.).

Obesity has a tremendous effect on a child's life. It increases a child's risk of having numerous health problems, and it creates emotional and social problems as well. Obese children are also more likely to be obese as adults, which increases their risk of having serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke (Anderson and Butcher, n.d.). Kids that are not happy with their weight are more likely to:

develop unhealthy dieting habits and develop eating disorders be more prone to suffer from depression be at risk for substance and alcohol abuse

Unfortunately, overweight children are at a much greater risk for developing medical problems that can affect their health now and in the future. Some of the conditions that being overweight can lead to are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, shortness of breath, restless or disordered sleep patterns, and depression. The risk of developing cardiovascular problems is also increased with obesity. Preventing or treating obesity in kids may reduce the risk of developing these diseases when they become adults (Overweight and Obesity, n.d).

If a child is overweight it is advisable to prevent further weight gain. Parents can help their children to keep their weight in a healthy range by doing some of the following things:

breastfeeding and delaying the introduction of solid foods giving children healthful, low-fat snacks and encouraging them to take part in vigorous physical activity on a daily basis limit television viewing including video games and the Internet to no more than seven hours per week

Older children should be taught to select healthy, nutritious foods and to develop good exercise habits while avoiding snacking or eating meals while watching TV (Anderson and Butcher, n.d.).

Having healthy eating habits and good physical activity are the keys to a child's well being. Eating too much and exercising too little will lead to obesity which will then cause health related problems that may follow children into adulthood. Parents can take an active role in keeping their children healthy, by teaching them good eating habits and encouraging physical activity habits that last a lifetime (Helping Your Overweight Child, n.d). Reaching and maintaining a good body weight is very important. The best way to approach this is by focusing on small but permanent changes in eating habits that may work better than a series of short-term changes that can't be maintained. Reducing caloric intake is the easiest change that can be made. Highly restrictive diets that forbid favorite foods will always fail. Another suggestion is to become more active. An increase in physical activity is seen as successful in reducing weight. Creating an environment that fosters physical activity is a great way to get children to exercise more. Parents need to be heavily involved in modifying an overweight child's behavior. Parents who model healthy eating and physical activity can positively influence their children's health and habits (Overweight in Children, n.d).