Childhood Obesity: America’s epidemic

Now that I have addressed a lot of crucial topics that should help us as parents to become more fit and healthy it is time to get into the family fitness and family health topics. I am not going to pull any punches. In today’s post I am laying it all out there when it comes to the topic of childhood obesity and our role as parents in this massive epidemic.

Levels of childhood obesity are absolutely skyrocketing in our society. Recent numbers from the CDC show that nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight and almost 1 in every 4 children is considered obese!

This is a very alarming statistic and not one that should be taken lightly. Not only will children that are overweight and obese have to suffer the social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self esteem, which will carry with them into adulthood, but they will have to face a slew of health problems at a very young age.

Some of these health problems are listed below:
• High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors in developing cardiovascular disease. One study found that at least 70% of obese children had one cardiovascular disease risk factor and 39% had two or more. Their arteries were already being clogged with a fair amount of fatty plaque build-up.
• Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, which leads to developing Type II diabetes.
• Increased problems with breathing, such as sleep apnea and/or asthma.
• Fatty-liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux.

All of these issues will lead to developing chronic diseases much earlier as they approach adulthood. The most common and devastating chronic diseases being heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers. All of these chronic diseases will greatly lower the quality of life of our children and will most certainly shorten their life span. It is predicted by many experts that this is going to be the first generation where the parents might out-live their own children due to the alarming statistics noted above.

As you can tell, childhood obesity is no joke.

Just like the adult obesity problems in our society it all comes down to the amount of food (calories) we put into our bodies and the amount of physical activity that we engage in. When we eat more than what we burn we gain weight. It really is that simple.

Too often people want to blame genes for the obesity/overweight problem, but studies show that genes are just a very small factor and that by far the overwhelming majority of the issue boils down to lifestyle. It is our daily decisions that determine whether or not we or our children are overweight or obese.

Too many children are eating portions that are way too big for them and are constantly overeating. They could be eating foods that are simply way too high in calories or they could just be eating too much food in general, but more than likely it is a combination of the both.

Along with the problem of chronic overeating is the plain as day issue of lack of movement. Overweight and or obese children simply do not move near as much as their lean peers. They might go out and participate in a burst of activity here and there, but when you add up all physical activity and just normal daily movement you will find the large discrepancy.

They just don’t move enough overall. Too much time is spent in front of the TV or on some other electronic device (computer, video games, etc.).

Now there are some kids that are quite active, but if they are still overweight then the issue is more than likely that they are flat out eating too much.

These two factors, food and drink intake and consistent physical exertion, are the largest contributing factors of the childhood obesity epidemic that stares our nation in the face right now.

The next few posts will be dedicated to this topic and will cover what we as parents can do to help out our kids. I will cover some things that you will agree with and more than likely will cover others that you will want to argue with or want to justify.

The biggest step that must be taken if you want to change is to take responsibility. In no other situation do I find this to be more true than in that of our own kids. I have found that too often parents don’t want to accept responsibility for their kids’ overweight problems. I mean, when you think about it, what loving parent wants to accept that they had a role in their child’s obesity problem? No one does.

I don’t want to be too harsh, but if in our minds we hold to the fact that it is some other factor that is out of our control and that we had no part in it, then we are giving up any power that we have to change it.

If it is always someone else’s or some other thing’s fault then we are giving up our power. We are in essence giving all our power to this other person or thing.
If we blame something else then we are in essence saying that we had no control of the situation. It is the other person or thing’s fault. We do this to avoid taking responsibility.

Nothing will change until we take the power of the situation (responsibility) back and put it in our own hands.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that if you have an overweight child that it is all your fault. Our children have their own agency and free will. They choose what they want. Any parent of more than one child knows this better than anyone. They are all different.

What I am suggesting though is that we as parents play a large role and can influence for good and support a healthy lifestyle or we can add to the problem of high calorie foods/drinks and low levels of activity.

For example, who buys the food that enters the home? Who purchases the TV’s, video games, computers, etc.?

We have a lot more influencing power than what we would like to believe.
Now there is a right way to go about it and a wrong way to go about it. I am going to go into one of the largest contributing factors of how we parent for both of these areas of nutrition and physical activity and what studies have shown over and over to be most successful in positively influencing the lives of our children.

It all comes down to our parenting style.

The main parenting styles are as follows: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful. The distinction between these styles is the manner in which parents combine the important elements of leadership and autonomy.

Authoritative parents balance both leadership and autonomy with their kids.

Authoritarian parents take leadership, but they don’t give autonomy to their kids.

Permissive and neglectful parents give autonomy to their kids, but they as parents don’t take leadership.

Studies show that there is a large correlation to overweight rates in children and the parenting style that is used in the home.

Authoritative is the gold standard of parenting. It has been shown to greatly reduce the rates of obesity in children raised under this style.

Permissive and neglectful parenting leads to increased rates of obesity, but the highest rates come from homes run by the authoritarian style of parenting.

Stay tuned for my next post that will go into the topic of nutrition and how we as parents have a lot more clout than we think we do. We truly can set up a home that will greatly encourage and will very successfully produce healthy eaters.

Seth

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