What is Adolescent Obesity?

Childhood and adolescent obesity has become what most would agree to be of epidemic proportions in the United States today.

The primary reason for this is that the number of overweight children and teens is increasing so quickly each year. In the years between 1976 and 1980, only 7 percent of all children, ages 6 -11 were likely to be obese. By 2004, this number of obese children had more than doubled to a staggering 17 percent!

Today, at least one of every four children is overweight; some studies have it as one in three. Teens don't fare any better because overweight children often learn eating patterns that then become a part of their lives.

These lifestyle choices follow them into their adolescence, making it very difficult to shed the pounds gained in childhood. In 2010, it is estimated that 50 percent of the children in America are overweight, according to Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

What are The Health Risks of Obesity?

Diabetes stemming from childhood obesity used to be a rare occurrence, and doctors were shocked when the first cases linked to weight gain started showing up.

These were treated as isolated cases, until more and more doctors saw an alarming pattern of both type 2 diabetes, and even heart problems in children, and both are increasing.

Unlike the genetic and/or inherited form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes is thought to be entirely preventable if weight is kept under control.

Early signs of heart problems, in children?

That too, was very rare, but now plaque is starting to build up in the arteries of overweight children and teens, putting them at risk from these very serious medical conditions, and possibly even death.

What Causes Childhood and Teen Obesity

There is no single factor that can be said, causes adolescent obesity or even childhood obesity, for that matter. However, modern lifestyles have made weight gain much easier. Instead of sitting down at the dinner table and having a family meal, many children today are given fast foods and high-fat choices. Other items contain empty calories, including sodas. Even these foods and drinks might not be a problem if children and teens took part in regular sports, and if families made a point of being active together.

The Stigma of Adolescent Obesity 

Once the teen years begin, being overweight can be a source of enormous stress, especially when cultural role models on television or magazine covers are unrealistically thin. Oftentimes it doesn't even take until the teen years for the pain to start. Studies have shown that children as young as 3 years old have been taunted and even bullied by their peers.

Cruel behavior towards obese adolescents often goes beyond bullying, it can even cause teens to have thoughts of suicide, and even raise their blood pressure to dangerously high levels. For some teens, being overweight increases their risk of death medically, as well as attempts on their own life. Peer pressure is tremendous.

How to Prevent Childhood and Teen Obesity

Drastic measures and crash diets, more often than not will do little to help children or teens to learn lifelong healthy eating habits. Restricted diets can often seem like punishment, especially to younger children, but eliminating most all junk foods (occasional treats are okay) and making sure healthier options are available in the home can go a long way in helping to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity.

Often, doctors will prescribe dietary guidelines only if a child or teen is morbidly obese and appears to be in impending physical danger. Instead, gradual lifestyle changes, with slow but steady weight loss is a better way to lose the weight. Starting out slow really works well for introducing various forms of exercise into the routine as well.

Rather than taking a long hike or ride, becoming physically exhausted and vowing never to try it again, families should try biking or other forms of fun physical activities for fifteen minutes or so, or just spend time taking short walks around the neighborhood at first.

Television can be turned off during dinner, and both children and teens should be encouraged to help plan and even to cook meals, making it fun to learn the how's and why's of healthy eating can really help.

Adolescent obesity, it can be prevented if you start practicing healthy eating and lifestyle habits early on, and it can be helped if you're late. They can do it, they just need our help and a lot of us could use it too!

Art Cook, health-stories.org has a strong desire in helping people realize better health, in body and mind, and has extended personal family oriented research experience in the health and fitness field. 

You can read more about the Dangers of Obesity here

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