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Understanding and Dealing with Childhood Obesity

Get the facts about childhood obesity

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Updated April 17, 2012

There are a lot of worries that go along with having kids, something you learn quickly the first time you see your child careening down a steep hill on a skateboard with no helmet. As your life (and theirs) passes before your eyes, you may not have the wherewithal to be grateful your child is active (if reckless). However, more and more, obesity is becoming the most unsafe thing we can do to our children. The latest statistics are downright scary. The National Institutes of Health recently released statistics about our overweight children:

  • In a study involving 14 other industrialized nations countries, children from the United States were the most likely to be overweight.
  • Among 13-year-old boys in the U.S., 12.6% were overweight.
  • Among 13-year-old girls, 10.8% were overweight.
  • That number grows for 15-year-olds--13.9% of boys are overweight and 15.1% of girls are overweight.

From the National Institutes of Health

So, we're fat, our kids are fat and we've got a big problem on our hands because obese kids usually become obese adults. These numbers may sound scary, but there is something you can do if you have a child who is overweight or obese. First, you need to educate yourself a little on the dangers of obesity for your child. Some of those dangers include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of Type II diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Trouble with bones and joints
  • Sleep Disorders

Children who are obese not only face health problems, but psychological consequences as well. Other kids might be picking on them in school because of their weight, which can only make things worse. Understanding some of the causes of childhood obesity can help you see where you're going wrong so you can start making better decisions for you and your family.

What Causes Childhood Obesity?

There's no real consensus on the cause of obesity--either for adults or children. Possibly because there's more than one cause. You probably won't be too surprised by these culprits:

  • Genetics. Children of obese/overweight parents have a greater risk of obesity.
  • Diet. Many of us eat out, making homecooked meals a thing of the past. We're eating more fast food and foods that are high in calories and offer very little nutrition. Another major factor is that many kids are drinking extra calories that come from sodas and other sugary drinks.
  • Physical inactivity. Many experts talk about television, computers, video games and other things that entertain our children while keeping them sitting around for hours at a time. The CDC sites physical inactivity as as the major cause of childhood obesity.
  • Environment. Our schools are also to blame since, on average, most kids have only 2.1 PE classes per week, totaling 68.7 minutes (from the NIH) Some experts also believe that children are over-exposed to commercials for fast foods, candy, sodas, etc.

The good news is that most of the causes of obesity (barring changing your child's DNA) can be changed. If your child is overweight or on the road to obesity, what can you do to help him or her lose weight and establish a healthy lifestyle?

Next Page: What You Can Do to Help Your Child

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