In previous eras, when it was harder to scrape a living, a buxom, thick bodied woman was a thing of beauty. She showed affluence and success, and so was considered desirable. Now, however, corpulence is considered a sign of weakness and lack of discipline. What’s more, it is positively flourishing in America. As adulthood wears on, metabolisms slow down; what you ate as a sixteen year old without gaining an ounce suddenly sends fifteen pounds straight to your thighs overnight.
The worst part of this is your children are watching, and what you eat, they usually eat too. Never learning proper nutrition as a young person just makes the situation worse as they move into adulthood. Being chubby as a child usually goes one of two ways: either you eventually get sick of feeling unhealthy and take matters into your own hands, changing your diet and finding ways to become more active, or you never learn how to take care of your body and gain pounds at an exponential rate. While being overweight as a child doesn’t preordain obesity in adulthood, it can certainly lead the way.
Childhood, Obesity, and Science
Long-term studies tracking the weight of thousands of children as they mature has shown that up to half of overweight children grow up to be overweight adults, although exact percentiles vary across ethnicities and the age at which weight gain starts to become overwhelming.
Furthermore, genetics research shows that children with obese parents are more likely to be obese themselves. Adopted children are less likely, because genes play such a large role in weight and body type. However, they still have a greater chance than children of parents at a healthy weight, because of the lifestyle choices they learn. Even weight gain during pregnancy before the child is born can play a role.
Along with the increased likelihood of obesity comes the increased likelihood of health issues associated with it. Even those children that manage to get control of their weight have an increased risk of being faced with factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even less common issues such as asthma, sleep apnea, depression, eating disorders, hypertension, and orthopedic problems.
Preventing Childhood Obesity
A lot of emphasis is being put on discovering exactly why it is that certain genes can lead to obesity. Societal reasons, however, are already quite clear. Everything and everyone from relatives to schools and churches play a part in what and how kids learn to eat. Even something as simple as play time can affect their weight. While experts try to figure out exactly why and how the genes react, focus is put on prevention and making healthy choices.
There are quite a few things you can do to help your kids stay slim into and through adulthood. First and foremost, teach them about portion sizes and healthy options. Instead of keeping candy bars for after school snacks, opt for carrot sticks and apple slices. Eat around the kitchen table instead of in front of the television set, where the focus is on Jeopardy instead of what you're putting into your body. For picky kids who think vegetables are gross, find sneaky ways to encourage them to eat broccoli instead of french fries. Design play time to be active, rather than sedentary. Send them out to run around the backyard instead of plopping down in front of the PlayStation for three hours.
Most importantly, take action quickly. Everyone thinks their child is perfect and beautiful, and no one wants to give their seven year old a complex because they’re a little plumper than they should be. However, remember that at a certain point, a whole life’s worth of health is in your hands. Seeing a doctor or nutritionist may be necessary if things are getting out of control. Most importantly, set a good example by eating good foods and not living a sedentary lifestyle. Showing your kids how to be healthy might just help you become a little healthier too.
One way to take action would be to look into childhood obesity programs for your child. These programs can be very helpful for children who are struggling with obesity from a young age because registered dieticians and exercise specialists will be able to work one-on-one with you and your child to develop healthier lifestyle changes. Most programs will require that your child be at least in the 85th percentile on the BMI and sometimes require a referral from their physician.