12/08/2010 11:31


Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity affects millions of children in the United States. These substantially overweight children are at increased risk of impairment or death due to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Other risks include bone and joint problems, asthma, sleeping disorders (which can cause concentration problems in class), and emotional issues.

Overweight and obese children often suffer at school from teasing about their appearance and stereotypes regarding their character, due to preconceptions that overweight children are "lazy" or "have no feelings".

Causes of childhood obesity include:

  • Reduced activity levels – With the time that children spend watching TV, using the computer and playing video games, they are getting less exercise.
  • Increased consumption of foods that are high in sugar and fat – Today's children eat as much as triple the amount of snack foods their counterparts were consuming just 20 years ago. In addition, there has been a doubling in their soft drink intake in that same time period.

To make matters worse, many fast food companies target children in their marketing campaigns and some schools offer soft drinks and junk food to students.

Fortunately, there is hope for obese children. With help and guidance from the adults in their lives, their weight and health can be improved.

  • Don't reward children with food. Candy and snacks as a reward encourage bad habits. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.
  • Practice what you preach. If you're practicing healthy habits, it's a lot easier to convince children to do the same. Incorporate healthy activities into the time you spend with children. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.
  • Encourage physical activities that children really enjoy. Remember that each child is unique and may have to experiment with many activities until he or she finds one that is enjoyable.
  • Limit TV, video game and computer time.
  • Help children develop a positive self image. Focus on the positives instead of the negatives. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done.
  • Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school cafeterias and vending machines.
  • Encourage school principals to offer more physical fitness opportunities.
  • Encourage obese children to participate in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation program




American Children Abroad

Ben and Helena Henderson

Prague, Czech Republic

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