Childhood Obesity is Everyone's Problem

child obesityThe United States is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese -- and the epidemic also affects children.

Today, one third of all children ages 2-19 are overweight or obese. Most of these children will become diabetic.

Even now, the costs of obesity are staggering -- 112,000 Americans die each year due to obesity-related diseases, and care for obesity-induced conditions costs $150 billion each year.

ABC News reports:

“The generation of children born in 2000 will likely live shorter life spans than their parents. Economic productivity of this generation will probably be less than their parents as well. Indeed, an obese adult adds $1,400 excess health care costs annually compared with his or her non-obese peers.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The very future of the developing world is at stake as a result of our exploding problem of obesity. I’m determined to help turn this deadly trend around. Several years ago I was so concerned about this topic that I actually wrote a book about it called Generation XL.

The obesity epidemic is claiming ever younger victims. One-third of all American children aged 2-19 years are now overweight or obese, putting them at increasing risk of serious diseases that can cut their lives short.

Research calculations indicate that by mid-century, the growing risk of serious obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, could lower the current average life expectancy by as much as five years.

If this epidemic is not reversed we will, for the first time in history, see children living shorter lives than their parents. I’m hopeful, however, that we will wake up in time before that becomes a reality.

What is Really Making Your Child Fat?

The modern-day food system has become exceedingly reliant on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined grains, processed foods and artificial sweeteners, all of which are part of a recipe for big-time weight gain. As you might already know, it is the number one source of calories in the US.

If you understand this, then you’re on your way toward understanding what the real answer to the problem is.

Michael Pollan wrote a book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, about why HFCS is so detrimental to your waistline, and in summary, it’s because fructose converts to fat far more than any other sugar.

In addition, the fact that most fructose is consumed in liquid form, such as soda -- which is the number one source of calories in the U.S. diet -- significantly magnifies its negative metabolic effects.

It should be obvious then that limiting or eliminating fructose from your child’s diet is of primary importance if you want to protect your child’s health and well-being.

Processed foods are yet another major source of HFCS and other health-harming substances such as MSG, while providing very few natural nutrients.

Most Americans spend 90 percent of their food money on processed foods, which promises to make you pack on the pounds by interfering with your body’s ability to regulate insulin and leptin.

On top of this, many of you have been deceived into thinking that all fat is bad, but rather than making you thin, low-fat diet foods actually cause weight gain in the majority of people.

As it turns out, fructose is the main culprit that promotes weight gain, not dietary fats.

The Challenge of Making Good Choices

School lunches make up a significant portion of your child’s diet, and the good news is that some school systems are taking the bull by the horns when it comes to student access to poor food and drink choices. Hopefully the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity will have an even greater impact in this area.

However, simply removing temptation doesn’t necessarily teach your children to make healthy choices on their own.

It’s important to remember that children learn most of their health habits at home. So as a parent, you must lead by example and teach your child the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, and emotional health.

Below are five basic health strategies every parent needs to know and impart onto their children.

Five Life-Changing Steps You Can Take to Help Your Overweight Child

  • Replace sugary juices and soft drinks with pure water

Children can easily cut down on the amount of sugar they eat by eliminating soda and juice and only drinking water. This step alone can have a dramatic effect on your child’s weight and health, since every soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage consumed increases the risk of obesity by a whopping 60 percent.

It’s important for parents to encourage their children to eat healthy, nutritious foods, focusing on fresh whole foods (preferably organic whenever possible).

This does not mean you should not allow your child to eat when he’s hungry, however. Children need calories and nutrients to grow and develop -- just make sure to encourage healthy foods geared for your child’s nutritional type, and bypass junk and processed foods.

Remember that any meal or snack high in carbohydrates or sugars generates a rapid rise in your child’s blood glucose level. To adjust for this rise, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers your child’s glucose (sugar) level. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone, which is used to store the excess calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat.

Insulin, stimulated by the excess carbohydrates in overabundant consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is responsible for your overweight child’s bulging tummy and fat rolls.

Even worse, high insulin levels suppress two other important hormones -- glucagons and growth hormones -- that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development, respectively. So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off your body's ability to lose that fat.

  • Decrease or eliminate TV time and remove the TV from your child’s bedroom

TV is often a destructive influence on children. Not only does it encourage inactivity, but it also exposes them to commercials promoting worthless foods. Just as you don’t want your child exposed to ads for cigarettes during Saturday morning cartoons, neither should your kids be bombarded by non-stop commercials for sugary foods and snacks.
Alternatively you can implement a rule that allows your child one minute of video (TV or game) time for every minute of exercise.

Exercise is extremely important for all children. Your overweight or obese child needs at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and major studies have shown that 60 minutes a day is best.

Any activity that gets your child up and away from the television set, video game or computer is a good idea. Start out with a daily walk with your child, and then gradually increase the intensity to include activities such as jogging and using an elliptical machine.

  • Help your child address emotional eating

Emotions play a major role in childhood obesity and often, weight loss efforts get sabotaged by emotional eating. Your child may also have a hard time giving up junk food snacks.

This is where the Meridian Tapping Technique/Emotional Freedom Technique (MTT/EFT) comes in. MTT/EFT can be profoundly helpful in alleviating not only food cravings, but also the underlying emotional challenges, such as low self-esteem, that can lead your child to eat unhealthy food or overeat.

More Tips for Creating a Healthy Eating Environment

Ultimately, teaching your child the importance of healthy foods and exercise is the key to maintaining health. With that in mind, here are some tips to foster a healthy view of food and self-esteem in your child.

  • Lead by example and seek to maintain optimal body weight for yourself and your spouse
  • Refrain from making jokes about your child’s weight, even if no harm is intended
  • Explain the health risks of being overweight to your child, but avoid comparing your overweight child to other children, including thinner siblings
  • Cook healthy meals for your family, and let your child be involved in making dinner, but avoid making your child eat different food than the rest of the family
  • Encourage your child to make healthy food choices and praise them when they do instead of putting your child down about weight or eating habits
  • Instead of using food as a reward or punishment, have healthy snacks available at all times, and explain to your child the benefits they’ll get from eating these fresh, whole foods

Creating health is actually quite simple when you get right down to it. It’s a matter of returning to the basics of whole, fresh, organically-grown foods packed with all the nutrients your body needs. Team that with exercise and proper sleep, and you have the recipe for growing an optimally healthy child.

+ Sources and References