Food for Thought - Taking on Childhood Obesity

Food for Thought - Taking on Childhood Obesity

When it comes to our children we would do anything for them. They are the reasons we work overtime, work multiple jobs and push ourselves to the limit. We make these sacrifices so we can provide them with the things we never had to show them how much we love and care for them. In the American culture; food is one of the most influential and abundant aspects in our lives. Our culture has used food as a tool for nurturing our children for many years. As the healthcare industry has evolved we are know able to see that this lifestyle has hindered our children and left other countries to develop a prejudice that Americans encourage their children to believe that being overweight or obese is okay. A prejudice is defined as “a distinguishing characteristic of a prejudice, as opposed to an ordinary opinion or belief, is that it reflects only the feelings within an individual, without regard to facts. This willful disregard of reality usually leads to the use of stereotypes, or oversimplified generalizations, about the group against which the prejudice is directed”, (Funk and Wagnalls). The heart of the matter is that our culture lacks the knowledge to break this cycle. Education is the best way to address the problem of childhood obesity.

As we look into our cultures background we that in earlier times it was common for families to have numerous children. With the lack of healthcare, money, and resources children in general were needed to help out around the house to maintain it and secure a living for the family. Today’s households have changed yet this characteristic of foraging has lasted through today where health research has finally had the courage to address this cultural issue. The healthcare industry has brought this topic up as a source of neglect. Should parents be charged with neglect if their child is overweight or obese? In recent months an eight year old child was taken into protective custody for weighing over two hundred pounds. Cuyahoga County officials removed the boy because case workers considered the mother's inability to get his weight down a form of medical neglect. Government growth charts say most boys his age weigh about 60 pounds (Huffington). Have authorities over stepped their bounds or is this the kind of spark needed to shed light on such a heated topic. We know that this lifestyle can lead to complications in our child’s future; that is why doctors are encouraging easier access to knowledge for all Americans. The only way to fight childhood obesity is to teach children early and help parents learn now.

In most cases with overweight children; families have usually been middle to lower class citizens. When providing meals for such a large amount of people items usually chosen are ones that are inexpensive, can be stored for long periods of time and can be made into large quantities with very little. Examples of these items are: breads, rice, pastas, potatoes, beans; when cooked these items can sustain a person for long time. As parents divide the food amongst everyone the portion given is greatly encouraged to be eaten completely. A familiar phrase can be heard often; “You will not get up from the table until you have eaten all of your food”. There will be no wasting of food when parents work so hard to get it. We also use food to reward our children for good behavior or to show that we love and care for them by taking them to get a special treat. Creating these emotional associations with food is not only physically damaging but emotionally crippling. They learn to deal with emotions by satisfying their moods with food instead of discussing them.

In society today we have grown into a tech savvy and fast food world where everything is done for us. Entertainment for children now is watching television, playing video games, playing on the computer and other sedentary forms of activities. Where do they get these examples of activities? As parents and role models we need to teach ourselves to set aside our gadgets and take a breath of fresh air. We need to take our children outside and exercise with them. Experts say children learn from example. Children today do not know how to use their imaginations nor do they play outside all day like we used to as children. “Most adolescents fall short of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendation of at least 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity each day”, (CDC). Parents can now purchase fast food instead of making healthy or home cooked meals. “Children are getting more of their food away from home. Energy intake from away-from-home food sources increased from 20 to 32 percent from 1977-1978 to 1994-1996”, (ASPE). The effect of this is our children have now set a new record high in this country for childhood obesity rates. “While some individuals may have an inherited predisposition to gain weight, public health experts say that the increase in obesity rates stemmed primarily from social and behavioral changes: more and more people were pursuing an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and consuming high-fat foods. In the world as a whole in 2005, according to WHO estimates, at least 20 million children under the age of five, and about 1.6 billion adults (defined as persons age 15 or more), were overweight, while at least 400 million adults were obese” (Funk and Wagnalls).

The United States today is striving to teach its people that healthier choices are necessary for a better tomorrow. The effects of an unhealthy lifestyle will be that we will see a rise in diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and the obvious obesity. Schools have now implemented healthy lunch options for kids, but have cut back on recess and physical education programs. Organizations such as the YMCA have strayed from helping low income families out in the pursuit of recreational activities for there children by raising program fees. Physical health problems are not the only effects from making unhealthy habits. “Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood”, (CDC). “Many overweight children grow into their extra pounds as they get taller. Realize, too, that an intense focus on your child's eating habits and weight can easily backfire, leading a child to overeat even more, or possibly making him or her more prone to developing an eating disorder”, (Mayo Clinic). How do we change centuries old ideals? As parents we have to learn to make healthier choices for ourselves. “Make sure you eat healthy foods and exercise regularly to maintain your weight. Then, invite your child to join you. If you foster your child's natural inclination to run around, explore and eat only when hungry — not out of boredom — a healthy weight should take care of itself”, (Mayo Clinic). Take your child to the doctor for well-child checkups at least once a year. It all starts with educating ourselves and following through. When our children see us making better choices and lifestyle changes they will absorb these ideals and pass them on to their children and future generations.

Works Cited
"OBESITY." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. EBSCO. Web. 24 Sept. 2011.
"PREJUDICE." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. EBSCO. Web. 24 Sept.
“Childhood Obesity.” ASPE. Web. 2 Dec. 2011.
“Obesity-Childhood.” CDC., 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.
“Health, Childhood-Obesity.” MFMER. MayoClinic, 9 Oct. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.
Sheeran, Thomas J. “Ohio Officials Take 200-Pound Boy From Mother.”
Huffington Post. 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 3 Dec. 2011.