Overweight Since Childhood
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Obesity is a “complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat” (Obesity, Mayo Clinic). The causes of obesity vary. One cause could be inactivity. If you are not active or exercising, you will not burn as many calories, therefore you will store the fat. Another cause could be an unhealthy diet and eating habits. If you are regularly eating over the number of calories you should be intaking, you are less likely to burn those calories. Lastly, medical cases can be a cause of obesity. These medical places include cases include “Prader- Willi syndrome, Cushing syndrome, and other diseases or conditions” (Obesity, Mayo Clinic).
Based on a 2013-2014 survey, one in three adults were overweight (Overweight and Obesity Statistics). Based on the same survey, one in three adults were considered obese while one in thirteen were considered extremely obese (Overweight and Obesity Statistics). Children in the age range of two to five, had a lower obesity rate at one in eleven (Overweight and Obesity Statistics). Even if the numbers are lower than an adult, it can still lead to a big issue. A baby being referred to as “chubby” can be looked at as a good thing. A chubby baby with little roles on their legs is cute, until it is not cute. It will even seem as if the baby is eating well and they may be, or they may not be getting the proper nutrients. The problem people are running into, is the baby is not losing the “baby fat” but taking it with them into childhood and then again into adulthood.
Why are babies becoming overweight? Babies are becoming overweight because they are not getting the proper nutrients or the nutrients they are getting are very unhealthy. Most people think “It’s a baby, it does not need to exercise.” That is the wrong line of thinking and no doctor is expecting a baby to run on a treadmill. But, that line of thinking could also cause their baby to become overweight or even obese.
Luckily, there are ways a parent can make sure their child is getting to and staying at a healthy weight. One is to breast feed. While all mother cannot or do not choose to breastfeed, breastfeeding does give and infant all the nutrients it needs. There are no supplements needed because it is all already there. It is also “impossible to overfeed while breastfeeding” (McCarthy). Babies should also never be overfeeding. If the baby stops eating, then the baby is no longer hungry. That is a sign to stop the feeding. A Harvard website with an article titled “6 ways to help keep your baby at a healthy weight” by Claire McCarthy, states, “if every time a baby fusses there are fed, after a while they may start to think of feeding as what they need when they are bored, tired or upset, making other tactics less successful and creating unhealthy associations with eating that are hard to undo” (McCarthy).
Another way to make sure a baby is staying at a healthy weight, is to give the baby solid foods that are healthy. When a baby starts to eat solid foods, it should not go straight to a diet of McDonald’s or other unhealthy fast food chains, which unfortunately does happen to some children. I have seen children come toddling into my center at two years old with a happy meal. Healthy solid foods should be introduced. These healthy solid foods include fruits, vegetables, “whole grains, legumes, fish and lean meats” (McCarthy). A limited sugar intake should also be introduced to the baby. Juice drinks, although are seen as a good thing, are not mandatory and should really be avoided (Hoecker). Juice drinks and soda pop are filled with more sugar than any small baby should be taking in.
The baby will get all its nutrient needs from breast milk, formula, or the solid foods, like fruits and vegetables that are being provided. This may seem like common sense, but I have watched parents feed their baby Coca Cola right out of the babies bottle. The last thing I will talk about helping a baby stay at a healthy weight is making sure the baby is moving and getting exercise. This healthy exercising includes crawling, learning to walk and eventually running. The author of the article “6 ways to help keep your baby at a healthy weight,” Claire McCarthy again states “if you make active play and family exercise a normal part of every day, it not only helps babies get to stay at a healthy weight, it makes it more likely that they will be active as children, teens and adults” (McCarthy).
What will become of infants, toddlers and eventual children if they continue to be overweight? They can and will have medical problems that will affect the child’s health now and as they grow older. Diseases that were once solely related to adults, are now serious conditions in children. These conditions include “type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol” (Gavin). Type 2 diabetes is a medical condition where the body does not produce enough, or its own insulin. This used to be referred to as “adult onset diabetes” (Type 2 Diabetes, Mayo Clinic). Today, there is no cure for type 2 diabetes. You can manage the disease by “losing weight, eating well, and exercising” (Type 2 Diabetes, Mayo Clinic).
High blood pressure is “when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high” (What is High Blood Pressure?). This causes your blood vessels to have to work harder which makes them less efficient, damaging your tissues. Having high cholesterol can lead to heart disease. When you have a high cholesterol, fatty deposits can develop in your blood vessels and “these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries” (High Cholesterol, Mayo Clinic). Your heart will not get the “oxygen-rich blood” and your risk of a heart attack increases along with the risk of a stroke (High Cholesterol, Mayo Clinic). These both will leave a human being with many other difficulties if they did have a stroke or heart attack. Unfortunately, that is not all that children are at a risk for. They are also at risk for bone and joint problems, shortness of breath, restless sleep, maturing earlier, and liver and gallbladder disease (Gavin).
It may seem like all a child will go through from being obese is medical issues, but that has proven to not be the case. Obese children are at a higher risk to develop emotional problems that will follow them into adulthood. In today’s world, being thin is what is looked for in terms of being healthy. A study shows that “children as young as 6 years may associate negative stereotypes with excess weight and believe that a heavy child is simply less likeable” (The Emotional Toll of Obesity). It is also showed that children that are overweight or obese have low self-esteem. While that is not always the case, some may have great self-confidence and are happy in their own skin, most are shameful of their bodies.
Sometimes these children are even told that it is their fault when they may have not had the proper upbringing to teach them how to be healthy. Children can also be cruel. Earlier, I talked about a statistic that said one in eleven children are considered obese. This is much lower than the one in every three adults that are obese. Since the statistic is lower, there are not as many children who are obese compared to those who are not. Some children will make fun of people who look slightly different than them and if there are only one or two children who are obese in a classroom, they may be the ones who will get picked on. It is not fair, but it is a reality in many of these children’s lives.
The children that are picking on the children that are considered overweight or obese can help lead to these children having depression. You may not normally associate depression with children, but it is real, and it is happening more often than it is not. Children that are obese feel like outcasts. They are not fitting in with typical aged children, and they may feel like they do not fit in anywhere. When a child sees themselves as uncool or an outcast, time after time and year after year, they will become sad and withdrawn or “clinically depressed” (The emotional toll of obesity). Anybody that has watched the news or has a smart phone with access to the internet, has seen the affects depression has on a person, which can make a person go to extremes like committing suicide.
These children may also become emotional eaters. So, when the child is upset or triggered in some way, they may turn to food, mostly unhealthy foods, to try and comfort them. This creates a never-ending battle of an unhealthy relationship with food. Obese children may also face discrimination. As I said earlier, thin is what is looked for in terms of being healthy. You also cannot walk past a sign or advertisement in the mall where the model is not stick thin. So, when people, children or adults, walk past this every day, it is seen as what everyone should look like. In the article, “The Emotional Toll of Obesity” the author states, “When heavy children become heavy adults, they tend to earn less money and marry less often than their friends who are of average weight.” (The Emotional Toll of Obesity).
How can obesity in children be prevented or helped? It really starts with the parents or caregivers. Children learn behaviors from those they watch. Parents or caregivers are who the child sees every day. If the person they look up to is eating fast food every day, sitting on the couch, and not being active, more than likely, the child is going to be the same way. So, what can we do? We need to make sure children have people setting good examples for them. Parents need to make sure they are eating foods that are good for them, so the child sees that and makes sure they are eating foods that are good for them, too. Children do not typically make their own food, so I also think the parents need to make sure they are making food that is healthy. I know eating healthy is not always easy, and sometimes it is easier to stop and get something from a drive- thru, but most of the time, the food needs to be healthy. Exercise needs to be incorporated into the child’s life, too. There are many ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine.
Simply going on walks can be healthy. Swimming in the summer, playing sports, or simply sending the child to the front yard to play with others, are all a great way to keep a child active and moving. Electronics like cell phones or tablets should also be kept to a minimum along with keeping the child from sitting in front of the television. It is also important to note that not every person on this planet has had the privilege of learning what a healthy lifestyle is. It may seem like it is common sense, but to most people they are taught in school the importance of watching what they eat or how often they exercise. So, if a parent was not taught what a healthy lifestyle is, they may not know how to teach their child about one, and then that child will not know how to teach their future children one day and it becomes an endless cycle. The best thing we can do is try to make as many people aware of the issue as we can.
Although parents and caregivers need to make sure they are providing a child with a healthy lifestyle, it is important that they do not force any diets on the child. A “restrictive diet may not supply the energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development” (Preventing Childhood Obesity). It is also important that you do not tell the child that they are overweight or that you are trying to make them lose weight. It is important to teach the child the importance of being healthy. A way to make it feel like you are not singling out just the child, is to focus on the whole family. Make it a goal for the whole family to eat healthier and for the family to exercise or move around. Establishing a daily meal and snack time along with planning sensible portions are also ways to set a better lifestyle for the child and the whole family.
Now we take the obesity into adulthood. Children that are obese are likely to take the obesity into adult hood. Research is predicting that “57% of today’s children will have obesity at age 35. This is a large increase, given that 37% of adults now have obesity” (Stimulation of Growth…). As with childhood obesity, there are a lot of problems that come from adulthood obesity. There are just as many health problems which include pre-diabetes, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea and breathing problems, bone conditions, gastro intestinal disease, and psychological problems.
How can obesity be prevented or helped in adulthood? It is important to consult a doctor. If an adult thinks they may be obese or overweight, a doctor would be able to tell you if you are for sure. The doctor would then be able to aid the adult in figuring out ways to help get them back onto the healthier side. Just like when trying to prevent a child from becoming obese, you should also make sure that the adult is making healthy eating choices. Fast food, while it is fast and easy to do, it should be prevented whenever possible. Fast food is not healthy food by any means. It is filled with fatty ingredients that should not be consumed on a day to day basis.
Exercising is another thing an adult can do to help prevent becoming obese. It is easy for an adult to say, “I do not have time to go to the gym” or “I do not have time to make a home cooked meal.” Yes, it will be hard, but it needs to be clear to the adult that their life could depend on it. Just like I mentioned above in regard to a child, an adult can simply go on a half hour walk, a bike ride or even go for a swim in their pool during the summer time or an indoor pool during the colder months. Joining a gym can also be pricy and a lot of people may be embarrassed to work out in front of others. A good alternative is watching YouTube videos in the comfort of their own home. There are so many YouTube videos that will get you active and moving and these videos can even include fun activities like music and dancing or even kick boxing.
As an adult, you can face the reality that you need to monitor your weight. Monitoring your weight will show you if your efforts are paying off or not. If they are, you can keep doing what you have been doing. If they are not, it may be time to add something new, or to take away something that you have been doing (Obesity, Mayo Clinic). Lastly, it is important for the adult to stay consistent. It may be easier to say “oh, I will start tomorrow,” or “Today will be a cheat day.” Consistency is key on whether the adult is keeping up with their plan to become healthier or they are not. The adult will see results if they are sticking to the plan they have drawn up to be on that healthy lifestyle path and if they are not, they will not see the results they likely want to be seeing. Ultimately as an adult, it comes down to the choices they are making each and every day to get themselves back to or even start their new healthy lifestyle.
Overall, obesity is an epidemic. I really feel for the infants, toddlers and children that are obese or overweight because they did not have much say in the matter. Infants, toddlers and children are relaying on their caregivers to make sure that what they are intaking is what is best for them and as a child, they will not know if what they are in taking is unhealthy. Also, if they do not see a parent or caregiver exercising or making the best food choices, they will most likely make the same poor choices. But, as I stated previously in this paper, a parent may not even know that their child is becoming sick or obese. For this reason, I feel like more parents should be educated on the matter and not just told that it is unhealthy.
They need to be shown the side effects of what being obese or overweight can do for a baby, toddler or child while they are still young and what it can turn into if they carry the bad habit with them into adulthood. Hopefully, the children are seeing their doctors regularly and the parents are being told if their child may be overweight, obese, or border line obese. While I have full sympathy for the infants, toddlers and children, I can also feel for the adults that are in the situation of being obese or overweight. It had to start somewhere. Did they grow up seeing their parents eat junk food or fast food every day and sitting on the couch doing nothing after work? Did they try to change their lifestyle habits only to fall back on the only thing they have known their whole life? It is important to not pass judgment on people and remember that every person is the way they are for a reason. Whether that is because of the way they were raised, the different paths they chose in life, or it is all they know, we are all humans and deserve basic respect no matter our pants or shirt size.