Childhood Obesity in America Essay
Ahhh there is nothing better than waking up at noon to the smell of some freshly cooked bacon and a heaping pile of blueberry pancakes. Mom makes them fresh every weekend morning. Usually the bacon and pancakes don’t quite do the trick so the pantry is raided next. At the top of the pantry next to the family size bag of Doritos, which will most likely be consumed later in the night, lays the hardest decision that will have to be made all day long. Which one of these sugary cereals shall be devoured this morning and fill up the rest of this already overstuffed belly? Reese’s Puffs, Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs or the tasteless Raisin Bran that Mom and Dad prefer. You can definitely count out the Raisin Bran. Cocoa Puffs it is. After grabbing the largest bowl that could be found in the house, the Cocoa Puffs are smothered in chocolate syrup to make the already chocolate milk even more chocolaty and delicious.
After every last puff goes down the hatch it is time to chug the extra chocolaty milk right from the bowl. Now that the belly is completely stuffed it is time for a nap. A nap is necessary after a long night of online gaming on the brand new Xbox 360 that mom bought last week. The other players don’t stand a chance after a week non-stop gaming with a few breaks here and there for the much needed meals and bathroom breaks. After the well- deserved napping session it is back to the big screen. Only this time it is not to play video games because the carpel tunnel is acting up in the left hand again. This time it is to watch the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives marathon on the Food Network. You just can’t get enough of the food network. But all this talk about food is making the stomach rumble and it is time for lunch. Mom promised that she will take us to the McDonalds that is right down the street if the chores were done.
Little brothers are great. After slipping him a whole two dollars, the chores are done in no time and a McDonald’s double quarter pounder with extra cheese is all that is on the brain. The clerk at the counter asked, “Would you like to Supersize that sir?” After thinking for a second about the giant container of fries and the bucket of coke the answer was easy, “Yes, Ma’am!” But why stop there? It is March and all those commercials about the new Shamrock Shake make it nearly unbearable. After a delicious lunch the only thing on the mind on this beautiful Saturday afternoon is getting back to that big screen TV and playing the brand new Call of Duty game. While all the other kids are outside running around pretending to shoot each other, the real action is inside this intense videogame. After an exhausting night, it is time to go to bed with plans for tomorrows day on the mind. Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the United States.
The article, “Obesity in America: What’s Leading the Epidemic?” states that nearly one thousand people are killed each day from obesity. Obesity is measured by BMI or Body Mass Index. This measures how much body fat someone has based on their height and how much they weigh. The author, Harvard Men’s Health Watch states that a BMI of twenty five or more qualifies as overweight and a BMI of thirty or more qualifies as obese. About 63% of Americans are considered overweight and about 31% are considered to be obese (Harvard Men’s Health Watch 2012). These numbers are strikingly large. This article only focuses on the adults that are obese in the United States and doesn’t focus much on the children. The children are what America should really be focused on because some day they will make up majority of the population.
The most obese child in the world is Jessica Guade who is seven years old and weighs four hundred and eighty two pounds. That is heavier than a majority of people in the entire world. Every single day she drinks ten thousand calories in Coca-Cola and consumes fifteen hamburgers. She can’t even walk and gets around by rolling. How can a parent do this to their child? Are they afraid to say no or do they just not care about their child’s health? This is what the American life is doing to children. These numbers will continue to go up and we will see more children like Jessica if nothing is done about this epidemic. American life is changing and people are adapting to new culture which is making them focus less on their weight and appearance. The main factors that contribute to the obesity outburst are the lack of exercise, watching way too much television, and eating too many foods that are high in calories and fat.
With the changes in television and advertising on television, Americans crave things that they see on TV. When you are watching TV you will see countless fast food advertisements where they make the food look so delicious and look like it was prepared in a five star restaurant. This is just one of the many tricks that advertisers use in order to get people to buy their products. The sad part is that most of the time it works. Americans see all of these advertisements on TV and all they want to do is go out and buy it. These days children are watching so much television rather than playing outside. Young children are the main target for some advertisers like McDonalds and Burger King. In all of their commercials they show images of children eating their food and it makes children want to go and get it. Not only are there a lot of commercials about fast foods, but there are commercials about snacks and drinks as well. According to M. Mello in their article, “Federal Trade Commission Regulation of Food Advertising to Children: Possibilities for a Reinvigorated Role”, a majority of the food and drink advertisements on television are advertising things that are unhealthy for the human body to consume (Mello 2010).
The amount of these advertisements is ridiculous and according to this article the FDA has had to start cutting the airing of a lot of them. Not only are the advertisements on TV a problem, but the amount of television that children watch is an even bigger one. These days’ kids would rather stay inside and watch TV and play video games rather than going outside and playing sports like the past generations. The video games of this generation have made it possible for children to virtually play any sport that they want instead of going outside and physically breaking a sweat and playing them. Television has made Americans so much lazier than they used to be. People don’t get out of the house nearly as much as they used too. Instead of going out to the ballpark and watching baseball games, they just go out and buy big screen televisions and sit on their butts and watch them. Children look up to their parents and will adapt these kinds of habits from them.
This is a huge reason why children are becoming so obese in America. The amount of television that kids watch and how many video games they play has a direct correlation to the lack of exercise in America these days. To children, a videogame or cartoon show is much more appealing than running around outside and exercising. Also, the developing culture of America as a whole has added to the lack of exercise in Americans. Technology has simplified nearly every aspect of human life. Rather than walking everywhere like our ancestors did, everyone drives, or takes the bus, or does anything that keeps them from using up their energy and breaking a sweat. As the parents of children are doing this, their children adapt to that lifestyle and in turn they end up doing the same thing and start to live the way that their parents live. In the old days you would see people walking all over the streets, but now that there are automobiles the streets are just lined with traffic. As cities are becoming more civilized and advanced, there are less and less places for people to work out, and for kids to run around and play outside. In the article, “Contributions of Built Environment to Childhood Obesity” by, T. Rahman, R.A. Cushing, and R.J. Jackson, it states that the neighborhood the child lives in has a huge impact on their health.
For example, if there are bike paths and places to play outside and run around, the child will be more physically active, but if these things aren’t in place, then the child is more prone to stay inside and watch television and gain weight as a result of that (Cushing 2011). While watching television they don’t have to get up to do anything anymore. Remote controls have changed the world. You can change the channel on the television, turn on and off the lights, and answer the phone right from your chair without getting up to do anything. The only thing that people have to get up to do is go and get more food from the fridge. Less and less children are becoming involved in athletics and exercise. Going outside and running around is much less appealing to children then it used to be. Lack of exercise is a huge contributing factor to obesity and children and something needs to be done about it. Fast food is so easy, quick, and convenient. Most Americans live a lifestyle that is always on the move and always busy. It is very easy for them to turn to fast food and grab a quick meal before they go to work.
Not only is it fast and easy, but there are so many fast food restaurants in the United States. In 1970 McDonalds operated close to one thousand establishments; in 2002 nearly thirty-five thousand restaurants were being operated. An estimated two thousand new McDonalds are opened each year. That is the road that most Americans choose rather than trying to sit down and eat a home cooked meal. That goes along with the laziness of Americans. In this article from CBS news “Fast Food linked to Child Obesity”, it states that “Every day, nearly one-third of U.S. children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food, which likely packs on about six extra pounds per child per year and increases the risk of obesity” (CBSNEWS 2010).
Fast food is so much faster and easier than going to the grocery store and getting all the ingredients needed to cook a nice healthy meal for your family. Instead most parents resort to the greasy, salty, and fatty foods that fast food establishments have to offer. According to J.Hariss’s article “Television Viewing and Unhealthy Diet: Implications for Children and Media Interventions”, “Humans possess an innate preference for sweet, high-fat, and salty foods, and a reluctance to try unfamiliar foods” (Hariss 2011).Although some fast food restaurants offer substitutions like how McDonalds offers apples instead of French fries, most people do not choose these substitutions.
People are more concerned about taste then health and to them, greasy salty foods taste better than apples. The only time that children would choose to eat the healthier choice is when their parents are with them. According to M. Stutts in their article, ” Nutrition Information and Children’s Fast Food Menu Choices”, when children go into fast food restaurants alone, they will choose to eat whatever they want regardless of the fat content. When their parents went with them they influenced them to choose the healthier items on the menu (Stutts 2009). The problem with the items on the fast food menus is that they are full of calories. The recommended calorie intake for a thirteen year old child that weighs ninety pounds is about thirteen hundred calories each day. A McDonlad’s cheeseburger happy meal with a low fat milk as a drink has approximately seven hundred calories. That is half of the amount of calories that is needed in one day. On top of that most children these days aren’t exercising at all and all of those calories turn straight into fat. Fast food in general is so unhealthy for your body and if it was cut out completely, the number of obese children would be reduced dramatically.
There are so many factors that play into why children are becoming so obese, but eating too many foods that are high in calories and fat is the number one reason why they are so obese. Most people in the world worry about the way they look when they look in the mirror. They will do anything to make themselves “look skinnier” and make themselves look more attractive. Nobody every worries about what is going on inside of their body. Most Americans do not realize that being overweight or obese can have some serious negative health effects on the body. There are so many aspects of life that are affected by obesity. Your metabolism, health of your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body can be greatly affected when you are at an unhealthy weight. In the article “Obesity in America: Large Portions, Large Proportions,” the author talks about some of the health risks that are involved with obesity. Some of the health risks are coronary artery disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, many forms of cancer, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression (Large Portions, Large Proportions 2006).
Obesity can ultimately lead to a shorter life span from the health risks. It is obvious from this article that there are some major health risks from obesity that can affect your body in a very negative way. It is important that people take care of their bodies so that they can live happy and healthy lifestyles. A huge part of the childhood obesity problem is that the children have no idea what they are doing to their bodies by not exercising and having unhealthy diets. The author of this paper had the opportunity to educate children on the proper nutrition and recommended hours of exercise daily through a service learning project that was completed with the help of a middle school from their hometown. Service learning is defined as “a method of teaching and learning that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (What is Service-Learning, 2008).
The author was given the chance to strengthen the community and inform young children about the dangers of obesity. The author did so by creating an informative brochure that the principle of Rosa Parks Middle School Dr. Donna Redmond Jones enjoyed and agreed to hand out to students around the school. The brochures were also made available in the health room where students can just come in and pick one up. In completing the service learning project, the author was able to gain a lot of knowledge on obesity, more importantly the health risks and ways to prevent them. The author also gained the fulfillment that he had informed young students about these risks and was able to benefit the community. The service project was ultimately successful because the author was able to re-teach the knowledge that he had gained from research to the children that the research was about.
The information that has been provided in this paper demonstrates how a lack of exercise, watching too much television, and eating too many foods high in calories and fat, has lead to the obesity epidemic that is in America today. The number of obese children in American is an absurd number. Children in America these days don’t worry about their image and their weight as much as they used to. All they are worried about is what TV show they are going to watch next, what video game they are going to play, and what type of fast food they are going to eat today. The idea of going outside and exercising never crosses their mind. If parents gave their children a little motivation to get involved in sports and exercising, the number of obese children in America would decrease substantially. Parents don’t motivate their kids because they are doing the same exact thing as them. Not only are there a lot of obese children in America, but there are an incredible amount of obese adults as well.
Children are prone to learn from what their parents do and inherit the bad habits that they have. So therefor if a parent is eating fatty foods and sitting around watching TV all day, their children will do the same thing. There are so many health risks that can come from obesity that you would think people would be more worried about it. Do people not pay attention to the warnings and health risks? Do they not really care about the way they look and the negative effects that it can have on the body? The prevalence of technology in America has changed the world greatly.
It has made things so much easier, but in turn it has made Americans so much lazier. Everything can be done from a seat on the couch without having to get up at all. Watching too much television, lack of exercise, and eating too many foods that are high in calories and fat are the three biggest factors that play into the amount of obese children these days, but there are a ton of factors that play into why Americans are so overweight. Something needs to be done about this epidemic before we see more serious side effects from obesity.
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Childhood Obesity in America Essay
More and more American children are becoming overweight or obese. Years ago an elementary classroom may have one kid who was overweight but today that has drastically changed. We have a whole new generation of kids who are consuming much more “junk food” and eating fast food 3 or 4 nights a week and they are not as active as kids used to be.
These kids are consuming things like Monster energy drinks, Starbucks coffee, Mountain Dew, chips, candy bars and more on a daily basis. Many of them are coach potatoes, video gamers, social networkers, texters, etc. We need to get this new generation of children to become more active. They also need to be educated on how to be aware of what they are eating and teach them to eat the so called “junk food” in moderation and incorporate more nutritious foods in his or her diet as well as maintain an active lifestyle.
Childhood obesity is on the rise due to the many changes in our society and we need to do something to prevent it before it gets out of hand.
Keywords: obesity, children, overweight
Childhood Obesity in America
Childhood obesity is becoming a problem across the globe and has been declared an epidemic in America. Children are consuming more calories than ever and many are not as active as earlier generations. For the first time in the history of this country, young people are less healthy and less prepared to take their places in society than were their parents. Diabetes is on the rise, American kids are getting sicker, becoming sadder and getting fatter.
(W. Sears, M.D., M. Sears, R.N., J. Sears, M.D., R. Sears, M.D., 2006) Many of you probably remember running around the neighborhood when you were younger playing things like tag, hide and seek, capture the flag and many other outdoor games. Then you would get called in to eat, only to go right back out to play until it was time to come in for the night.
Now days you are more likely to find children indoors in front of the television, on the computer, texting a friend or playing a video game, not to mention they may be eating an unhealthy snack, such as a cookie or a bag of chips. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.5 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Obesity is a good indicator of unhealthy lifestyles, characterized by over-eating and lack of physical activity.
Who is responsible for this you might ask. Is it the parents, the schools, fast food restaurants, technology, a down economy or even the food industry? We cannot single out and put the blame on any one of these. However, each one can be a contributing factor and the combination of them certainly could be part of the cause. Let’s take a look at how each of them impacts our children’s health. Let’s start with the parents.
As I stated earlier, years ago children were outside playing much of the day. However, now parents are not letting the children out to play until they are much older because they worry about their safety.
Part of the reason for this is that the world has changed. Ever hear the phrase “It takes a village”? Well years ago neighbors looked out for each other and their children. Now everyone minds their own business and keeps to him or herself. Even the cars going through the residential neighborhoods do not seem to be as cautious about watching for children. Maybe this has to do with the fact that children are not as often outside playing as they used to be.
Families seem to be so much busier today than in the past. Most families are living on two incomes instead of one, which means there is not a stay at home parent making home cooked meals everyday. Not to mention families are having less and less meals together at the table. Instead parents are tired and are relying on quicker meals like frozen pizza’s, banquet chicken, corndogs, fries, hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, microwaveable meals, and even fast food. Many families are a single parent household and may be on a tight budget and may be purchasing the cheaper convenience foods that are typically less nutritious and have more additives and preservatives.
Parents are not intentionally trying to make their children fat and/or sick.
Most are trying to do the best they can and don’t realize the long-term effects of all the processed foods, especially combined with a less active lifestyle.
What about the school’s role in all this? Kids spend a big part of their day at school and some eat breakfast and lunch at school. As a Licensed Family Child Care Provider, each year I have to take nutrition training through the USDA food program. After taking it one year and learning about high fat foods that are commonly served to children, I was looking at my son’s monthly lunch menu for the elementary school and noticed they were serving too many of these high fat foods in one week at lunch. In the same week the kids would be served chicken nuggets, pizza, and a breaded chicken sandwich. These foods are not bad if eaten on occasion and in moderation.
However, what I learned in the nutrition training was that we should limit the amount of high fat foods served in one week. My daughter, who attends the high school, told me that everyday if the students don’t like the main option for lunch they could go and get a hamburger or hotdog with french fries as an alternative choice. Middle schools, junior highs, and high schools often have an a la carte line or snack bar at lunch, which consists of ice cream, cookies, juice, and other foods that are not very nutritious for a lunch. Some schools even have soda machines and snack machines. There have even been some schools that are cutting their physical education and sports programs.
Technology plays a big role in the children not being as active as they used to be. There are no longer just Saturday morning cartoons. Now with channels like the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network kids can watch cartoons twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Today our children spend many hours on media devices, such as cell phones, Ipads, Kindles, and hand held video games as well as the television, computer, or other game systems such as Xbox. Many kids today would rather be inside on the computer or playing video games than out with a friend or being active. This morning I was at the doctor’s office to have my cholesterol checked. In the waiting room at my clinic they now have a TV up on the wall that is always playing something educational about staying healthy.
Today as I was watching it they were talking about how people who sit more than three hours at a time shave time off of their life. They said after three hours of sitting you should get up and move around for a while before sitting back down. According to this program we have enzymes in our body that help break down fat. However, when we are sedentary or sitting these enzymes are not able to break down the fat in our body. If that is true than these children who are spending hours on the computer, watching TV or playing video games are not burning as much fat as they could be if they took a break every now and then and got up and moved around for a bit before sitting back down.
Another contributing factor to childhood obesity is the food industry. Why the food industry? I’ll tell you why. The food industry is packing more and more preservatives, dyes, fat, sodium, sugar and other stuff into our food to make it last longer and taste better, but what are these added ingredients doing to our children?
They are literally turning our children into sugar and carb addicts. Products such as chips, cookies, candy and other junk food are being targeted towards our children. Watch a cartoon with your child sometime and pay attention to how many of these commercials you will see. You will be amazed.
Something many of you might not think of is the down economy as another contributing factor. Many families are struggling and have had to make plenty of cutbacks on their spending. Yes, that sometimes includes cutbacks on food. It can get expensive feeding a family of four for a week. It is actually cheaper sometimes to buy processed foods and junk food than it is to buy natural and healthy foods. For example, it is much cheaper to buy a box of Little Debbie snacks than it is to buy a small bag of apples or carrots.
During my own families rough financial times we discovered that feeding a family of four from McDonald’s $1 menu was not only more convenient but cheaper than cooking many meals as well. If everyone got 2 to 3 items it was less than $15 for the whole family. However, in the long run eating lots of the unhealthy foods and snacks is going to cost you more in healthcare and prescription medications from the consequences of eating an abundance of these foods.
“A family with an obese child spends 30% more in health costs and 77% more in medication costs.” (Parekh, 2012,
Prevention is Better than Cure, para 1). Also obesity in childhood often follows into adulthood, which further supports the importance of preventing childhood obesity. (Wang, 2011)
Fast food is another big factor for some people. I am not saying you should never eat it at all but some families are eating the stuff three or more times in one week. When I was a kid I was lucky if I got fast food once every six months and that was a treat. McDonald’s seems to have taken the blunt for the fast food industry when it comes to the consequences of eating it too often. They have tried to make some changes like getting rid of the supersize portions and adding apple wedges as an alternative to fries in their kid’s Happy Meal.
There even is a documentary that was made about the negative impact McDonalds and the rest of the fast food industry are having on society. The main character, Morgan Spurlock in the movie did a one-month experiment. He ate three full meals a day at McDonald’s, only ordered a super size meal when asked, and never ate food from any other source. By the end of Morgan Spurlock’s month long McDonald’s binge, he had become depressed and exhausted, he was experiencing dramatic mood swings, and his sex life had greatly diminished.
He gained 25 pounds, his body fat percentage increased from 11% to 18%, his liver was showing notable signs of damage, and his total cholesterol increased from 168 to 225. However, because of Spurlock’s unrealistic extent of excess calorie consumption, the only thing that this really proves is that overeating is unhealthy. (2009) If eaten on occasion and in moderation as well as eating the right portion size it is not going to harm you and that movie can be misleading.
However, it does show what can happen to those who eat it on a daily basis. Parents should limit their child’s meals at fast food restaurants and think of another quick healthy alternative for those other days they may be in a time crunch.
Now that I’ve talked about some of the contributing factors of childhood obesity, let’s discuss the effects it has on our children’s health. Children are ending up with health problems such as, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes was previously referred to as “adult onset” diabetes because it used to be more typical for adults over the age of 40 to get this type. (Schraffenberger, L.A., 2012) Some of these overweight kids are also dealing with being teased by other kids and being called fat.
This is leading to more kids being treated for depression. If these kids, some as young as elementary age, are having these kinds of health problems, what does that mean for their health as adults?
So what changes have been made to fix this problem of childhood obesity in America? There have been some laws that have gone into effect. One such law has affected me as a childcare provider. The law went into effect in October of 2010 and states that all children over the age of 2 must be served low fat 1 percent milk or fat free skim milk. This law also applies to the schools. The schools have always had minimum calorie guidelines but now there is a maximum calorie guideline the school has to follow as well.
This went into effect in July of 2012. Some schools are making changes like taking their soda and snack machines out or having them shut off during lunchtime. Some have even put in new machines with healthier options. Our first lady, Michele Obama has been actively involved in trying to prevent childhood obesity and has even visited some schools that have changed their menus to implement healthier options. Another big advocate in preventing childhood obesity is Rachael Ray. She has started the yum-o organization, which is a non-profit organization. According to the yum-o website, the yum-o organization “empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking.”
Wang (2011) explains that the U.S. obesity epidemic can have many serious health and financial consequences if it cannot be controlled, and likely minority and low-income groups are hit harder. Childhood obesity is currently higher than it ever has been and we can do something to prevent it. Parents can help by limiting their child’s screen time, eating more nutritious home cooked meals at the table (not in front of the television) and encouraging their children to be active. For families with busy schedules the parents can take time on the weekends to plan meals ahead of time for the upcoming week.
They do not have to be elaborate and can even consist of soup, sandwich fruit and milk. (American Academy of Pediatrics) The schools can limit the “junk food” they offer in vending machines and the a la carte line or replace it with healthier options and offer more nutritious meals with the appropriate amount of calories.
They can also stop cutting their physical education programs, as keeping children active is very important in preventing obesity as well. Families who are struggling financially can buy fruits and veggies that are on sale or in season and make meals that are cheap yet healthy. Also we should have more restrictions on the food industry, such as maybe a warning label for parents on foods that are way too high in sugar, fat, or sodium. If we all work together to make as many of these changes as we can our kids will be much happier and healthier.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Obesity rates among all children in the united states. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html Hassink, S. (Ed). (2006). A parent’s guide to childhood obesity. United States: American Academy of Pediatrics Parekh, N., (July 13, 2012). Childhood obesity prevention tips. Prevention is better than cure. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-7-2004-55178.asp Ray, R., (2012). Rachael ray’s yum-o cook feed fund. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://www.yum-o.org/ Schraffenberger, L.A., (2012). Basic ICD-10-CM/PCS and ICD-9-CM Coding, Chapter 6, Page 123 Sears, W., Sears, M., Sears, J., Sears, R., (2006)
The healthiest kid in the neighborhood. New York, NY:
Little, Brown and Company
Wang, Y., (2011). Disparities in pediatric obesity in the united states. Retrieved October 21, 2012, from advances.nutrition.org/content/2/1/23.full.pdf+html