The Three Variables That Affect Childhood Obesity

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January 23, 2007 | 16,114 views


A survey of more than 8,000 children, ranging from kindergarteners to third graders, found that television, family meals and neighborhood safety all play a role in the presence or absence of childhood obesity.


The survey examined eating and activity factors, and placed the children in three different groups:

Children who watched more television and ate fewer family meals were more likely to be overweight by first grade. If they also lived in neighborhoods considered unsafe for outdoor play, they were more likely to be overweight starting in kindergarten.



Two years ago I posted a checklist of seven risk factors for childhood obesity. This new study adds two more.

It's no surprise that an excessive amount of TV watching was a factor. And, in fact, fewer family meals (which generally also means less nutritious meals) and neighborhoods parents perceived weren't safe for outdoor play -- meaning no exercise time -- are also fairly obvious contributors to childhood obesity.

Other warning signs of childhood obesity include:

  • Early size
  • Early body fat
  • High birth weight
  • Having obese parents
  • Quick growth from ages 1-2
  • Getting less than 10.5 hours of sleep at night

You can fight obesity all you want in our schools, but controlling the epidemic depends on parental guidance or, more importantly, the lack of it.

If you want to keep your children fit:

I believe this topic is so important that I wrote a book on it. In March I will be coming out with my next book, Generation XL, which is a comprehensive review of childhood obesity.

On Vital Votes, reader Kelli from Georgia adds:

"Although much has highlighted the soda machines at our schools -- what about the  everyday trip to the snack area to buy ice cream, cookies, or chips? At our county schools they do not want the parents to send a snack. But, of course, if you don't send extra money, the child doesn't get the snack like the rest do.

"This is kind of like peer pressure towards unhealthy snacks by the school. I think the schools need to work on healthy lunch and move all the vending machines and ice cream freezers right out the back door!

"Obesity is not the only problem with sitting all day at school and then all night at home watching TV or playing video games -- why do we wonder at the number of depressed /anxious children? Exercise is one of the best treatments  and preventions for depression and anxiety -- even in shorter increments.

"Finally, when a parent makes a family meal an important time -- most children prefer it. It's great for communication and teaching proper table manners. 

Once our oldest son in college called when he knew we would be eating -- he just wanted to know what we were talking about. He missed eating with us. There are a few years when our children think we know everything -- those are the years we must teach with. After that, it is the memories they think on and we hope lead them."

Other responses to this article can be viewed at Vital Votes, and you can add your own thoughts or vote on comments by first registering at Vital Votes.



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