Teenage obesity is an increasing concern; an alarming concern. As of the year 2000, 9 million American children were overweight, and the same numbers again are at risk of becoming overweight.
The causes of teenage obesity are many.
For one thing, the American lifestyle has become more and more sedentary in recent years. People spend more time watching television.
Nearly everyone spends at least some time sitting in front of a computer, and some teens spend quite a bit of time doing it. Video games for the TV and games for the computer are wildly popular. Much of their “play” and leisure time is spent sitting in front of a screen instead of outside bicycling, playing sports, skating, or any of the multitudes of possibilities.
Of all the teenagers in America, 43% watch at least 2 hours of TV a day. This is an important statistic. Although the number of hours – 2 – seems low based on my personal and non-scientific observations. The point is this activity burns fewer calories than just sitting still for the same amount of time.
TV also has many commercials urging people to eat which leads to snacking. And of course, generally speaking the snacking habits in our country are quite poor. Chips; pizza rolls; peanuts; buttery popcorn; more chips; cheese and crackers; chips and dip; and so on. Plus teens and adults usually also eat too much at any given time. No wonder there’s a problem with teens getting fat!
Another factor of teenage obesity is that schools have dropped their physical education requirements. In fact, there’s only one state remaining that mandates it. With no formal exercise program, only 25% of the children are engaged in physical activities.
Teenage obesity has negative consequences.
One study has shown overweight children engage in bullying behavior, and are bullied more than other children.
A truly alarming trend is the dramatic increase in teens developing Type 2 diabetes. This used to be called “adult on-set” diabetes. But because so many teenagers are developing it from poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, and being overweight . . . it is predominantly just referred to as Type 2 diabetes.
Even more importantly, obese children lose years off the ends of their lives. There is a formula for it and it can be anywhere from 3 to 20 years. And of course, developing diabetes in your teens impacts the formula as well as their health for many years of their lives.
What are some ways to stop teenage obesity?
Some children will do well to stay at the same weight as they gain height. This will lead to a more normal weight. Also, doctors often recommend that children afflicted with obesity do not go on a strict diet. A diet can keep them from achieving their full stature. So, parents are left to make changes subtly, without introducing a specific diet plan. But always check with your doctor first.
Parents can start to curb obesity in their children by doing the things they want their teenagers to do. If they want their kids to treat exercise like a normal part of life, they must treat it that way themselves. If they want their children to enjoy healthy foods, snacks, and beverages, then the parents need do the same. Activities can be encouraged by parents, too. They can get teenagers involved in hard work that is going on around the house. Mowing the lawn or painting rooms are two examples. This will help discourage obesity and include the teenager as well.
Parents can plan fun activities. They can take their child biking or hiking. They can plan activities where you all have to walk. You could go to the zoo, a mall, or a fair. It’s also important to be sure healthy foods are available, or you are perpetuating serious weight gain in your children.
One of the real tragedies of obesity in teens is that with very rare exceptions (due to a medical condition), it is preventable.
The first step to battle teenage obesity is to stop treating obese children like they’re different. Only when they can accept themselves will they be motivated to change. Then, parents can do their jobs of subtly changing the diet and exercise habits of the entire family.