Essays

Childhood Obesity in America: Essay By Melinda Sanchez

Child ObesityThis is an essay I wrote for my English 102 class about Child Obesity In America.

I received an A for the paper but in the process of researching [easyazon-link asin=”1578261201″ locale=”us”]Child Obesity[/easyazon-link] my eyes were opened and my heart was broken. This is a serious problem that affects 1000’s of children across the country.

The irony of this sad story is in 3rd world countries, children are starving to death…

Childhood Obesity in America

Melinda Sanchez

 Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the problem and possible solutions for Child Obesity in America.  This is important because the lives of children are at stake.  It not only affects the children themselves but everyone in America.  The safety of the nation relies on the next generation who will join the military which are the children.  If the children are not healthy or alive what will become of the military whose mission is to protect the country?

Childhood obesity costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year due to increased medical costs.  The two major changes contributing to obesity are less play time (physically) and improper diets. Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years.

Several solutions which have been recommended are for children to play (physically) at least one hour a day and to change their eating habits. It is not only the responsibility of the children to make these changes but everyone needs to be involved including parents, guardians, and schools.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic affecting 1 out of 5 children in America.  Children need to be taught, encouraged or forced to play more, eat less, and make better choices.  If child obesity is not dealt with, this could be the first generation of children who will not outlive their parents.

Child Obesity in America

The cutest babies who get all the attention are not the ones who are scrawny and small but those that are full, round, fleshy who resemble angelic cherubs.  These are the ones who get all the looks as they wobble their way across the room.  Their cheeks are plump and rosy like chipmunks in the forest.  Comments can be heard about their rolls on their legs such as, “look at those fat little legs; they are so cute I can just bite them.”

This is all fun and beautiful while they are babies but when children grow up and they are obese with bodies that wobble and wiggle with every move; this is no longer cute and funny.  These children whose faces look swollen and inflated like balloons ready to explode,  with thighs that rub together as they attempt to walk is not only a grotesque sight to see but a danger to these children’s lives.

Childhood obesity in America is an epidemic affecting 1 out of 5 children in America.  Children need to be taught, encouraged or forced to play more, (physically), eat less, and make better choices.  It is not just a matter of these children being considered cute but a matter of life and death.

According to Dr. David S. Ludwig, Director of the child obesity program at the Boston Children’s Hospital who was quoted in a Newsweek article written by Pam Belluck (2005), “Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the United States to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents.”

What is Childhood Obesity?

When obesity in children is discussed the questions that often arise are: “Are all children who are fat considered obese?” Also, “What is child obesity?”  Not all children who are not slender or who are heavy are obese.  Obesity is measured by a Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated by multiplying the child’s weight by 703 and dividing the total by height inches squared.  BMI does not measure body fat but is an indicator of body fat.  Children with a BMI at or above 85 percent on the Center for Disease Control BMI chart is considered overweight but a measurement of 95 or above is obese (Barbour, 2010).

What are the statistics for childhood obesity in America?

Approximately 17% (or 17.5 million) children between the ages of 2-19 years old (in America) are obese.  There have been enormous changes in the amount of obese children.  Since 1980, obesity among children and adolescents has tripled (Ogden & Carroll, 2010).  This is such an alarming rate that childhood obesity cannot be ignored.  First of all, research has been done to find out what are the causes and effects of childhood obesity.

What are the causes of obesity?

Some of the causes of childhood obesity are the changes in lifestyle.  Children have become more sedentary than ever before.  Gone are the days when most children could be found playing outside from dawn to dusk.  Playing outside consisted of physical games such as flag football, hide-n- seek, hopscotch, roller-skating, climbing trees, etc.  Most of these games have been replaced by virtual games where children pretend to be outside but in reality they have become what are known as couch potatoes.  While they are on their couches, they are being bombarded by commercials enticing them to eat, eat, eat and eat some more. For the most part they oblige by eating sugar laced, fattening, and unhealthy snacks. More and more children are being left unattended or being made responsible to make their own choices of what to eat or snack due to both parents working outside the home.

According to Mary Eberstadt (2003) in an article entitled, The Child Fat Problem she discusses how many children eat to fill a void in their lives and not necessarily a void in their stomach.  Many suffer from low self-esteem or loneliness for which they turn to food for comfort. This only makes the child gain more and more weight and causes them to feel even more rejected.  It is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Numerous schools no longer offer physical education classes due to budget cuts.

Our society has become a perilous place for children; therefore, parents are more comfortable keeping their children safe inside.  All these things contribute to children becoming less and less physical which is detrimental to their health.  The other factor that has changed over the years is the type of food and snacks children are eating.  Not only has quality changed but also the quantity and portion sizes. Snacks such as raisins, celery sticks, apples, nuts, string cheese have all been traded for snacks such as hot Cheetos, Twinkies, cookies, donuts, candy, and soda.  Children are eating and drinking portion sizes that are enough to be shared among three people.

Due to changes in the home where both parents may be gone, children may not be eating three healthy full course meals.  They are turning to the easy and convenient foods overflowing in their kitchen cupboards. The combination of lack of physical movement and the increase of improper eating habits is causing the children of America to gain excessive weight which is causing major health issues in their bodies.  Their bodies are not only changing in physical appearance on the outside but their health is being affected in the inside.

What are the effects of childhood obesity?

In the book Child and Adolescent obesity: Causes and Consequences ,Prevention & Management (2002) the authors discuss how obesity is not only disfiguring America’s children but countless number of children are suffering from major health issues such as hormonal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, sleep-related, metabolic issues and worse of all type II diabetes (p. 156-166).

The human body was not created to carry the excess weight obese children are carrying. The human body needs fuel derived from eating fruits and vegetables but instead the bodies of these obese children are being poisoned with excess amount of sugars, fats, man-made additives; which many times are addicting, all which are causing major health issues. Not only do these children suffer physically but psychologically.  In a world where physical beauty is practically worshipped, being an obese child can be devastating.  The obese child does not look like other children and will have a hard time fitting in. Many are bullied or called names which may cause the child to withdraw even more.  Severely obese children cannot join other children in their worlds due to being overweight.  Their weight at times causes them not to have the freedom other children have to run and play. Numerous children cannot run due to joint pain, breathing issues and cardiac problems.  They are trapped inside a body that does not allow them to move freely.  The psychological damage obese children suffer will perhaps carry on into their adulthood. The consequences of childhood obesity do not only affect children when they are young, but obese children normally become obese adults. The consequences will also affect the Nation as a whole.

The consequences will also affect the Nation as a whole.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (2008) in his speech called, Prevention: The key to heading off a National Health-Care crisis spoke to the Common Wealth Club of California stating, “The Challenging problem in America is obesity. It is the terror within.” He spoke of his concern for our country.  If America continues along this route, there will be no one eligible for the military due to obesity.  “Where will we get our Navy, Marines, Air Force, firefighters and police officers?”

Solutions to obesity need to be addressed while the child is young. It is very important that all family members work together to prevent childhood obesity. Prevention is the best method of dealing with the obesity epidemic.  It is easier for children to not become obese by following a few guidelines than it is for a child to lose weight.

 What are some solutions for childhood obesity?

Surgeon General David Satcher (2001) wrote a call to action on the Health & Human Services website regarding obesity in America and some of the solutions to combat the problem. He offered the following guidelines to families in order to help deal with childhood obesity:

Guide choices rather than dictate, encourage to eat when hungry, eat together as a family; cut fat & calories; don’t put child on restrictive diets; avoid using food as rewards and avoid withholding food as punishment; drink water and less sugar drinks;  eat 5 servings of fruit & vegetables a day;  don’t eat snacks while watching TV; eat breakfast, be physical at least 60 minutes a day doing family activities; encourage swimming, biking and limit TV,  and computer games to less than 2 hours a day.

Additional suggestions offered by dieticians include; switch to low-fat dairy products, limit fast food, take out and eating out.  Eat a diet rich in calcium and a high-fiber diet.  The solutions to childhood obesity are not all directed towards a child’s diet but also making some of the changes needed to keep the child healthy; changes such as encouraging children to play or become more physical for a minimum of 60 minutes a day.

If a child is going to be engulfed in video games and technology, then children should be encouraged to play the video games that incorporate movement into the game.  Computer components such as the WII and WII Kinect are excellent resources children can use to get more exercise into their daily lives. Dealing with obesity is not just a problem that needs to be addressed at home, even though this is where the education begins but also schools play a big part in dealing with the solution for obesity. Many schools have opted to remove traditional vending machines from campus.

Others are filled with healthy drinks or water only.  Lunch menus have changed to incorporate more of the 5 fruit & vegetables needed daily. Some schools have added salad bars filled with fruit and salads. Not all children will agree or care for these changes.  When a group of high schoolers were asked on a radio show called How on Earth show how they felt about the removal of the vending machines, many were angry (Costello, 2006). Children will be children. Regardless if children understand or agree with the changes, parents and guardians need to be parents and guardians.

Are parents responsible for obese children?

In looking at who is responsible for children becoming obese, it is not only the children who are responsible since most of the time children are not the ones who provide or cook the meals in their homes.  Children are attaining the snacks from somewhere, which are typically their kitchen cabinets in which their parents/guardians have filled.  In an article published by National Council on Family relations, authors Sara Gable and Susan Lutz (2000) spoke of how both children and parents are responsible:

Compared to non-obese children, obese children’s parents may not recognize the importance of their role in socializing their children’s healthy growth and development and may grant more responsibility to children for meeting their nutritional needs.  Parents of obese children many not suggest physically active alternatives to television viewing because they do not see the significance of these interventions for children’s immediate and long term health (p. 293-300).

Karina Bland (2010) wrote about how children don’t choose what they eat or put into their bodies, their parents do.  If left on their own to decide, most children will not choose the foods that are good for them.  Parents may complain that their children will not eat anything accept junk food but the bad stuff cannot get into the cabinets by itself and since children have no jobs or transportation the children’s buying power is limited therefore it’s up to the parents to help children make the right choices and provide them with the right food (p. E1).

From the time children are born, they are dependent on someone feeding them; it is usually their parents/guardians.  When they are babies parents are very cautious of what the baby is allowed to eat.  They sit there patiently making little airplane sounds trying to coerce their children to eat the nasty green peas that are so healthy for them; but somewhere along the way parents/guardians forget they need to continue to encourage their children to eat healthy.  Granted as the child grows and becomes more responsible for what goes into their mouths, parents can still make sure their children have been taught to avoid obesity by getting enough exercise and eating a healthy diet.

How can everyone help solve the problem?

Parents/guardians have been accused of abuse or neglect when children are obese.  Some have even lost custody of their child as in the case of an Ohio mother.  Her son was 8 years old and weighed 200 lbs. (D’Arcy, 2011). It is easy to accuse parents of neglect or abuse as in this case but there is plenty of blame to go around.

Children are being blasted with advertising and marketing of all the wrong foods.  Schools that cut recess or P.E classes in order to save on their budgets all the while feeding the children fried foods, pizza and French fries; fast food restaurants that sell their meals for $1 with some of the food choices consisting of 390 calories and 19 grams of fat. Grocery stores that sell a bell pepper for an average of $2. Many of the fruits and vegetables are so astronomically expensive many families cannot afford to eat a healthy diet.  Is it any wonder why they turn to these “value menu deals”?

The technology industry creates a hunger for video games and consoles through spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising making the children feel dissatisfied until they own the latest game or gadget that has them glued to their couches for hours.

If childhood obesity is going to be eradicated, it is not only the parents and children who need to change; it is the entire society who needs to play their part in the solution of childhood obesity in order to save the children.  Childhood obesity is an epidemic affecting 1 out of 5 children in America.  That is 1 out of 5 too many.  Children need to be encouraged or forced to play more (physically) eat less, and make better choices.

Parents/guardians should not be punished when they haven’t been given a fair chance to provide healthy diets for their children.  They should be encouraged and given the ability to feed their children a healthy diet by making the food affordable.  Parents/guardians need to do everything in their power to make sure their children are involved in plenty of play time such as sports, riding bikes or taking a walk around the block by joining their children and setting an example.

Parents/guardians need to invest more time into their children even if they have to cut back on their spending or change their lucrative lifestyles so they won’t have to be outside of the home as long leaving the children to fend for themselves when it comes to eating.  Stock the cabinets and refrigerator with healthier choices so when the children reach in for something, they will find something that will bring health and nutrition to their growing bodies.  Families should work as one unit.  Childhood obesity is a dangerous epidemic killing the children but it is not something that cannot be beat or stopped with just a few changes.

References

 Barbour, S. (2010). Obesity in children is a serious problem. Obesity, rpt. From Childhood overweight and obesity. Retrieved April 2, 2012, From Opposing Viewpoints.

http:// www.cdc.gov

Belluck, P. (2005, March 17). Children’s life expectancy being cut short by obesity. New York Times, Retrieved April 1, 2012 www.nytimes.com/2005/03/17/health

Bland, K. (2010, February 21). Kids will eat less on own? Fat chance. Arizona Republic, p.E1. Retrieved March 8, 2012 Proquest.

Burniat, W., Cole, T., Lissau, I., & Poskilt, E. (eds.). (2002). Child and adolescent obesity:                             Causes and consequences prevention & management (pp.156-166). West Nyack, NY:              Cambridge University. Retrieved March 7, 2012 from Ebrary

Carmona, R. (2008, April 2). Prevention: The key to heading off National Health-care crises [videofile] Video posted to http://foratv/search_video.php?q=surgeon+general+richard+carmona ++ Retrieved March 8, 2012

Costello, D. (2006, January 16). How on Earth, Show. Obesity and food in schools. [radio broadcast]. Colorado. KGNU Retrieved March 8, 2012

D’Arcy J. (2011, November, 11). Ohio mom loses custody of obese son: Using government intervention for a childhood epidemic. Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2012

http://washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting

Ebertstadt. M. (2003). The child fat problem. Policy Review, 3+. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from Opposing Viewpoints.

Gable, M & Lutz, Susan. (2000). Household, parent & child contributions to child obesity. Family Relations, 3, 293-300. Retrieved March 7, 2012, From JSTOR

Ogden P. H. D., C., & Carroll M.S. P.H.M. (2010, June 4). Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents: United States trends 1963-1965 through 2007-2008. In Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 7, 2012 http://www.cdc.gov/

Satcher, D., (2001, January 8). Overweight in children and adolescents. Surgeon General. U.S.      Department of Health & Human Services.  Retrieved March 8, 2012 http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/

Childhood Obesity in America: Essay By Melinda

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