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Teen Obesity: An Alarming Trend

According to the Centers of Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. This is an alarming trend that needs to be stopped.

Today's youth are the people who will control America's future:  its business leaders, workers, politicians, military leaders, and most importantly, our country's future parents.  We must therefore do all we can to ensure that our children grow up to be responsible, capable individuals who can fulfill the task so that America remains a strong country generation after generation.

But there is a problem afoot.  According to the Centers of Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. This is an alarming trend that needs to be studied closely, for it poses a threat to our future.  These are the figures:

  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. To put this into perspective, if you were to gather 100 random teens across the country, 18 of them would be obese.
  • In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Obese adolescents are at a greater risk to develop premature cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease such as diabetes.  If it continues into adulthood, they are at high risk to develop one of many types of cancers.  They are also prone to develop bone and joint pain, sleep apnea, and psychological problems like low self-esteem.  And as recent news indicates, overweight adolescents are at a greater risk of being a victim of school bullying. 

It is therefore important for parents to aggressively do all they can to bring their child to a normal, healthy weight as soon as possible.  Their future depends on those efforts.

WHAT TO DO:

If your child is not obese:  Prevention is the best strategy.  Set an example by having healthy food accessible around the home, and eating it yourself in front of your children.  Sit down family dinners are extremely helpful.  Spend more time in the kitchen preparing meals from scratch and less time surfing the web.  Make health a priority in the household.  Tell your child to slow down when eating and enjoy the experience.  Avoid fast food joints.

If your child is already overweight or obese:  Find out what is  going on.  Is healthy living being made a priority in the household?  Is your child eating not because of hunger but rather for comfort?  If you the parent are obese as well, it will be difficult to convince your child to change his/her eating habits.  It will be critical for you to get down to a healthy weight; if not for you, for the sake of your child's future health.  This alone can convince your child that you are serious, and can be very effective in motivating him/her to do the same.

We live in an obesigenic world, where our environment and lifestyle is filled with things that promote inactivity and eating high-calorie, nutrient-poor food.  It is important to identify these things so that you can protect yourself and your family from falling into the obesity trap.

There is a weight loss discussion group that meets every Thursdays at 5:30 PM in San Ramon.  The focus of the group is to teach ways to make small, incremental changes in your life that will lead to healthier choices.   For more information, call (925) 788-6253.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dan Perez January 24, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Great advice, Douglas. Let this be another motivator for parents to not allow their kids to get fat: the prospect of big medical bills, higher insurance premiums, and having to deal with problems at school. No one needs this added stress in their lives!
jake3_14 March 20, 2013 at 04:12 PM
It would help if parents knew what good nutrition is, which is usually the opposite of what Americans have been taught: low-fat, high-carb, and lots of healthy, whole grains. This strategy, the sugar problem already mentioned, and the deliberately-addictive nature of processed food, has produced our obesity epidemic. We cannot rely on official, government-sponsored sources for our nutrition information. It’s well-documented that our health agencies are captive to the corporations they are supposed to police, and it’s equally well-documented that the research that supports current nutrition guidelines is shoddy at best, and fraudulent at worst. Our grandparents knew that starch made you fat, and recent popular books, based on recent research, and debunking shoddy nutrition research (which is most nutrition research), explain how traditional wisdom about eating produces good health. "Practical Paleo," "Escape the Diet Trap," "The Primal Blueprint," "Wheat Belly," "Don't Die Early," "The Perfect Health Diet," and "Why We Get Fat" (for the more technically-inclined) are all good places for parents to begin their education. (contintued in next comment)
jake3_14 March 20, 2013 at 04:13 PM
There are a myriad of online resources to support parents changing their eating habits: balancedbytes.com (companion to "Practical Paleo"), Mark's Daily Apple (companion to "The Primal Blueprint"), perfecthealthdiet.com (companion to "The Perfect Health Diet"), lowcarb.ca (for a number of lower-carb food plans), paleohacks.com (troubleshooting your food plan), and Chris Kresser’s 13-part email series, “Beyond Paleo,” just to name a few. I know it’s a lot to ask of parents to de-program themselves and learn nutrition anew. But they can’t put their families on a healthy path unless they have a solid, reliable base of information to guide themselves.
Dan Perez April 23, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Thanks, Jake. I am a regular reader of Mark's Daily Apple. I believe the obesity problem is a combination of what you mentioned--inaccurate health information; lack of good public health policies and guidance-- and not enough emphasis on the mindset aspect of losing weight. People find comfort in food-- they need to find other ways to get their comfort, and be more aware of the consequences of how they eat.
Douglas Linman April 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Thanks folks. We clearly hold the responsibility for our health and the health of our children. This comes with making hard core decisions to incorporate true and lasting changes to our eating and snacking behavior patterns. Please exercise in some form every day and your children, then cut sodium, carbs, sugars, fats and oils by 50%. You will immediately see and feel the positive effect of this change on your body and within your mind and how you feel about yourself. Waste no more time talking about it, start this hour and make the changes a natural function of your everyday. Live well and long!

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