It may be a hard fact to accept, but people are generally getting heavier in many western societies.
It’s no wonder the diet and exercise industry is booming with so many people looking to lose weight and be healthier.
But if there is an entire industry focused on reaching these goals, why is obesity still a crisis in our country?
It all has to do with building healthy mindsets and habits when we are children. You know the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” – well, we old dogs may be able to learn new tricks, but it comes with a large amount of effort and sacrifice.
Yet, those who grew up surrounding my healthy lifestyle choices demonstrated by their parents are more likely to continue healthy living into adulthood.
Our children learn by watching what we do. When we dismiss our own personal health, we are showing our children that health and fitness are not important.
We all know it would be good to lose weight and be healthy, but we are only vaguely aware of the staggering levels of obesity in our societies.
We are even less aware of the impact this is having on our children and the widespread existence of childhood obesity.
What is Obesity?
Generally speaking, a person is considered obese when the amount of fat stored in the body endangers their health. This is calculated by considering the person’s height and weight in order to determine their Body Mass Index (BMI).
An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, while an adult with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
For children, determining obesity depends on percentiles.
For example, being overweight for a child is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile to the 95th percentile. Anything over the 95% percentile is considered obese.
The Reality of Childhood Obesity
To give you a idea of how serious childhood obesity is, here are some OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) statistics that show just how widespread the problem of obesity is:
Percentage of population (over the age of 15) who are obese:
- U.S.A. – 30.6%
- Mexico – 24.2%
- U.K. – 22.4%
- Australia – 21.7%
- New Zealand – 17%
- Canada – 14.9%
- Germany – 12.9%
- France – 9.4%
In other words, almost 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 15 are grossly overweight to the point of experiencing health problems and other complications.
What Causes Obesity?
As individuals, we have a tendency to rationalize our inclination to be overweight or obese. We often blame things such as heredity or glandular imbalance.
While these thing often do make a difference when it comes to our weight, and the weight of our children, the primary cause for most obesity is quite simple:
A person gains weight when he or she consumes more calories than they burn.
In other words, there are two important factors involved – diet and activity level. And it seems pretty obvious that in countries with high obesity levels, both things are taking a hit.
Western diets, especially those targeted at children, are chalk full of more fat and sugar than ever before.
People, both adults and children, are also leading more sedentary lives and getting less physical exercise.
How often do you find you or your child sitting in front of a computer or TV all day and night?
You’re not alone. This has become a normal lifestyle for many families. However, the consequences of living this way, and risking obesity in your family, is a serious matter.
Consequences of an Obese Lifestyle
Did you know that obesity has overtaken infectious diseases as the most significant contributor to ill health worldwide?
Illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer and depression have been linked to obesity.
In fact, it has been estimated that roughly 500 000 deaths now occur every year due to poor diet and physical inactivity.
If this trend towards obesity is not reversed in the next few years, it will likely overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of death
Even more troubling is the fact that when adults adopt an obese or unhealthy lifestyle, they are more likely to pass their eating and activity habits along to their children.
No wonder there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in children.
Obesity in Children
Obesity in children has become commonplace in many countries. For instance, it is estimated
that obesity in children and adults in the United States alone has increased by more than 30% in the past ten years.
The reasons for this are obvious. Children are subjected to an obese lifestyile from all sides.
Many families have substituted high fat, high sugar junk food and soft drinks for regular well-balanced meals.
Or they have simply stopped making meals at home because they don’t have the time. Which is understandable, but the proportion of foods that children consume in restaurants and fast food outlets has increased by nearly 300% between 1977 and 1996.
And that number is not decreasing.
Children are also the targets of a constant barrage of advertising that promotes highly processed junk food.
And, in many cases, the normal physical activity that has been a part of childhood for many generations has been restricted by concerns for safety or completely replaced by sedentary activities such as playing video games, using cell phones or watching TV.
The Consequences of Childhood Obesity
Obesity is never a good thing for anyone, but obesity in children is especially bad.
Once fat cells are created in the body, they cannot be rid of by normal dieting or increased physical activity. This means that an obese child will likely carry their obesity into adulthood.
However, if a child learns good habits for diet and exercise, they will carry these healthy habits and knowledge into adulthood as well.
What Can Be Done About Childhood Obesity?
It is up to parents and other adults to teach children responsible alternatives to an obese lifestyle.
To do this, parents must first become aware of the problem with their own personal and family eating habits and activity levels. Then they must make adjustments that will have a positive lifelong impact on their children.
If you are worried about your child’s health and weight, you can always jumpstart changes in your family’s lifestyle by adopting the AKA approach:
- Awareness of the problem.
- Knowledge of what to do about it.
- Action designed to bring about lifestyle changes.
Children have an innate thirst for knowledge, a deep desire to improve their self-image and will love the attention you give them as you develop a plan for a more healthy lifestyle for your entire family.
If your child suffers from obesity, this article isn’t meant to make you feel bad. It’s meant to empower you to realize that you can help your child lead a healthy lifestyle by being the best role model you can be and guiding them to optimal health.
What do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your children? Share your tips in the comments below!