Yes, obesity in children and adults has now been termed an epidemic, because it is so rampant. What are the repercussions of this epidemic and what can be done to curb it? Let’s take a look.
As is evident from the topic of this subject, obesity is not just a term given to one overweight person, it has now become a full-fledged condition common in most children, which is why it has been called an epidemic. What are we doing wrong? How has the epidemic begun? Is there an end to it? Here, we discuss the onset of this obesity epidemic in children, and what measures can be taken to restrain it.
What has Led to the Obesity Epidemic?
Life is much simpler today with all the improvements and advancements in technology. Children have vending machines, buses to take them around, parents who’ll drive them to the mall in cars, and video games to spend their spare time with. There is no activity, no exercise, just a lot of rest with a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, this rest can lead to some very serious problems, where obesity is only the beginning. Obesity can begin as early as infancy and can continue right into adolescence and adulthood. A child is considered overweight when her/his body mass index (BMI) is above 25. The higher it goes, the more dangerous the situation becomes. The risk factors that arise with obesity are drastic, to say the least.
- Children who are obese are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes at an early age.
- Type 2 diabetes has been linked with kidney problems, blindness, heart problems, and nerve damage.
- Studies have shown that obese children are at a greater risk of premature deaths as compared to children who are not.
These are not time based facts, but facts that hold true at any given time or situation.
Another reason why experts believe that obesity has become a widespread epidemic is because of the direct marketing of junk and fattening foods toward children. Any insistence on their part is generally succumbed to by parents, who think ‘she/he’s only a child. Let her/him have whatever she/he wants.’ This is probably the worst attitude that can be displayed toward children. Schools also tend to focus heavily on academic performance and fail to encourage physical education, in spite of clear proof that engaging in such activity on a daily basis can significantly improve academic performance.
You have a McDonald’s and a hot dog stand, or a Taco Bell at every nook and corner. It’s so much easier to pick up a meal while on the go, for yourself and your children rather than go home and cook after a tiring day at work. A fast life with fast food has slowed down our bodies, so much so that obesity has become an epidemic. Finally, children learn only by example. What we do, our children will imbibe. Not every, but a lot of parents themselves may be indirectly responsible for their child’s condition. The statistics on childhood obesity are alarming and are worsening as time goes by because this condition is just not being taken seriously.
Dealing with the Obesity Epidemic
Since the condition is widespread, the awareness also has to be widespread. You may definitely begin at home, but measures need to be taken to deal with the all-pervasive obesity among children. What we need is a public platform to spread awareness so that it can make even a marginal difference. For instance, schools can start introducing changes by including one healthy food in the cafeteria in the meals offered, and then increase it slowly so that children accept the change slowly. Vending machines need to be completely banned from school premises.
It is important to keep in mind that any drastic changes will never bring out positive results, and are likely to backfire. If you suddenly stop giving your child that daily burger and put a bowl of fresh greens in front of her/him, it is not going to go down very well. Instead, a bowl of healthy, fresh soup before a meal will have her/him fuller so that she/he eats lesser of the junk. Unfortunately for you, though you may not have the time, you have to carve it out to make a difference to your child’s health. And this is the responsibility of every parent. You cannot wait until public measures are taken to ensure healthy eating habits by your children. It is difficult to implement such changes with temptation being around everywhere. However, it is an effort that has to be made so that any significant changes can be seen.
You may think that giving your children diet and low calorie junk foods available in the market instead of the regulars is a good idea, but having lesser of unhealthy food is not the answer to the problem. Unhealthy meals have to be replaced with healthy meals. Obesity does not only imply being overweight. It also implies the excess of one nutrient and the lack of another. A child doesn’t only need to be lighter, she/he also needs to be energetic, which can be derived only by eating the right kind of food.
Schools also need to enforce physical education on a regular basis. Children must be made to exercise in any form they like, be it gym or dance or basketball. Doing so inculcates the habit of performing regular exercise. Parents can make a difference by encouraging walking to a store or to the mall instead of being dropped in a car. Again, leading by example is the best way to change their habits. Be a part of the change you are trying to see in them so that they truly imbibe them. For instance, make them join you while gardening, play a game of softball with them, or do anything that will get them off the couch and out in the open.
These are just some basic measures that one needs to start off with to make a difference. Though extremely necessary, it is definitely going to be much longer before large-scale measures are implemented to control this ever spreading epidemic. However, at least as parents the least you can do is put in your effort to curb this problem and have your child lead a long, healthy life. Temptation will always be around. Children have to be taught how to deal with it in lieu of leading a normal life without too many health problems.