Monday, March 4, 2013

Hug Our Children's Hearts & Bellies!

Childhood obesity used to feel like such a foreign concept to me. I think it’s because I quite literally (well, not quite) grew up outside. Yes, I watched a lot of TV and played a lot of Atari when I was kid. A lot of us did. They were new technologies. However, most of my memories growing up center around everything we did outdoors. My brother dug a swimming pool-sized ditch in the orchard behind our house (which today is Highway 85) and used it as an army bunker. My best friend and I later turned it into a flower shop J My brother pitched tents in the backyard and had campouts during the summer months with his friends. We’d make ourselves picnic lunches and climb our backyard tree to eat. We rode our bikes. We played pickle. We sat around doing nothing under the neighbor’s tree. We set up theater-style seating in our garage and watched our cat have kittens! We were outside. 

With all that said, it continually shocks me to read statistics like these from the Center for Disease Control:
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1, 2
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.1, 2
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.1
  • Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.4
  • 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.5,6
  • During the last 3 decades, the prevalence of obesity has tripled among persons aged 6–19 years. Multiple chronic disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high blood glucose levels are related to obesity.
It goes without saying that healthy diets for children can be a challenge to manage successfully. However, teaching children about the importance of exercise and healthy eating early on can prevent most cases of obesity; as well as avoid the struggles and confrontations that can arise when you decline the lastest request for potato chips or candy. Yes, there are medical conditions some children deal with. We are not trivializing those issues here by any means. But we all know of the growing trend of couch potatoes and computer geeks . . .  

There are growing numbers of programs in schools that address the importance of healthy eating patterns. Inside the classroom, there is curriculum specifically focused on statistics of  illness rates, allergy percentages, etc. and how they are directly related to low test scores, irritability, and hyperactivity. 

Television programs are even taking part in the fight. Shows like NBC’s The Biggest Loser have had successful runs at targeting America’s youth; teaching them how to eat healthy and take care of their bodies. 

Don’t forget: You are feeding your babies’ brains. Their ability to focus, energy levels, muscle strength, irritability, etc. are all impacted by what they eat and how much activity they partake in. Start them young and . . . get your kids outside!  

1.     Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.
2.     National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
3.     National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Disease and Conditions Index: What Are Overweight and Obesity? Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2010.
4.     Krebs NF, Himes JH, Jacobson D, Nicklas TA, Guilday P, Styne D. Assessment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity. Pediatrics 2007;120:S193–S228.
5.     Daniels SR, Arnett DK, Eckel RH, et al. Overweight in children and adolescents: pathophysiology, consequences, prevention, and treatment. Circulation 2005;111;1999–2002.
6.     Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. [pdf 840K] . Rockville, MD, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.  

Other References:

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