Obesity has reached epidemic proportions around the world, not only among adults, but in children and adolescents as well. In fact, it is projected that children born today will live shorter lives than their parents and grandparents because of the obesity epidemic.
A shocking reality is that obesity, largely related to poor diet and inadequate physical activity, is a major cause of preventable disease and death globally. The good news is that, together, we can bring about change.
Obesity among youth has become a leading public health concern worldwide. In America alone, rates of obesity skyrocketed over the course of a few decades primarily as a result of changes in lifestyle habits. Specifically, the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents more than tripled; please note that this statistic refers to obesity only and does not include the significant number of those that are overweight/at-risk of obesity.
Consequences of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is a serious issue that requires urgent attention. This is because there are severe and immediate consequences of excess weight among youth. Overweight youngsters are more likely to be diagnosed with at least one, if not several, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, leading to a greater chance that they will experience heart disease. Type 2 diabetes, a disease once limited to the adult population (in fact, it was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes), is now on the rise among children and adolescents. These are issues that the medical community never imagined possible. Furthermore, medical problems related to childhood and adolescent obesity tend to persist into adulthood.
Prevention is Key
Prevention is the best strategy in the fight against obesity, and it is most effective to begin doing so early on. Research reveals that the path to obesity often begins as early as infancy and toddlerhood; already by the young age of two, children are forming habits that can make them more - or less - likely to be overweight or obese. Lifestyle habits developed during childhood tend to persist long-term. Thus, it is critical that the development of healthy lifestyle habits start when children are very young.
In order to prevent obesity, positive habits must be introduced early, even as soon as infancy. The establishment of a healthy lifestyle begins the day a child is born.
10 Keys to Preventing Obesity among Children and Adolescents
2. Instill healthy eating habits in children beginning in infancy
3. Serve a well-balanced, nourishing breakfast every day
4. Provide wholesome lunches and snacks daily
5. Eat out occasionally only
6. Regularly cook and sit down to nutritious family meals at home
7. Limit sweetened beverages
8. Help children establish physical activity habits early on
9. Limit "screen time" (this includes television, video games, computers, iPads, and smartphones)
10. Ensure that children maintain healthy sleep, rest, and relaxation patterns
It is never too early to begin teaching healthy lifestyle habits to our youngsters. Just like bathing and tooth brushing, these positive habits are foundational life skills. Children are more likely to adopt and practice beneficial habits throughout their lifetime if parents start to instill them early on, beginning in infancy and toddlerhood, and continuing on through childhood and adolescence.
About the Author: Keeley Drotz is a registered dietitian with over ten years of experience. Her specialization is working with children and families. She recently published her first book, The Poisoning of Our Children | Fighting the Obesity Epidemic in America, which is about the prevention of childhood obesity. Please visit Keeley's websites at PoisoningOurChildren.com and facebook.com/fightingtheobesityepidemic.