Obesity is a growing childhood problem
by Kathie Cox Guest Columnist
Obesity will soon overtake smoking as the “leading cause of preventable death” in this country.
For me, it’s hard to know if this is good news or bad news.
Every day, new reports continue to dominate the news about the rising obesity rate among our children. North Carolina has the 10th highest adult obesity rate and 11th highest childhood obesity rate in the nation. The percentage of children and adolescents overweight has more than doubled in the past 30 years.
The reasons for this include more sedentary lifestyles; availability of junk food; marketing and advertising to eat all the wrong foods; non-traditional eating habits; access to healthy food choices and access to health care.
Obesity is a scary word and carries with it a great deal of preconceived notions and stereotypes. It conjures images of slovenly, overweight people gorging themselves at an all-you-can-eat buffet and children who are teased unmercifully, but obesity is much more than just being too overweight or being made fun of. Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic and in no place more evident than right here in the United States.
Aside from the serious health problems associated with obesity, it can generate a variety of psychological problems as well, especially in children. Obesity can cause low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and distorted body image — all of which can lead down a path of continued overeating and overindulgence, making it difficult to adopt the lifestyle changes necessary to lose the excess weight.
Who is responsible for letting our children down by creating a lifestyle that perpetuates inactivity and poor nutrition? So who’s responsible for childhood obesity?We are. It is our job as parents to teach our children solid values and with that comes personal responsibility. We place an emphasis on children behaving well and getting good grades, but what about teaching them the value of their health? We do everything we can for our kids to give them a “leg up” in life, and all too often, healthy living is not a part of the leg up, and it should be. If our kids are healthy, it will overflow into everything else they do. If our children eat well and exercise daily, they will be better prepared mentally and physically to meet life head on and excel.
Government agencies are doing what they can to get programs in place to fight this epidemic, but the fundamentals of healthy living begin at home. Schools and communities have the potential to improve the health of young people — our children — by providing instruction, programs and services that promote lifelong physical activity and healthy eating. A pediatrician can give you many of the tools you’ll need to help. If weight has become an issue for your child, it’s not too late to start working on healthy habits.
Here are some tips to help keep your child from becoming overweight.
— Limit intake of sweetened beverages
— Offer water when children express thirst
— Limit TV/video time to one or two hours a day
— Encourage daily physical activity or active play
— Provide appropriate portion sizes
— Prepare and eat more meals at home
— Create a healthy eating environment
— Provide healthy snacks
Obesity is our problem. It affects every aspect of the person or child who is overweight or obese and can greatly decrease their quality of life. The good news is that there is hope.
For information about physical activity and healthy eating, contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator II/Healthy Carolinians Coordinator for the Scotland County Department of Public Health at 910-277-2470, ext. 4478, or visit eatsmartmovemorenc.com.
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