Many children grow at different rates and at different conditions; hence, it is not easy to tell whether a child is overweight or not. Body mass index uses weight and height measurements to determine how much body fat a person is having. Body mass index can be used to determine whether a child or a teenager is overweight (Shilstone, 2009). BMI can be done for children from the age of two years. When a child registers a lofty BMI-for-age measurement, further assessment should be done on the child to determine whether the excess fat is a problem. The assessment includes skinfold thickness measurements, family history, and evaluation of diets among other appropriate health screening. The use of BMI to determine whether a child is overweight is not perfect and, can be misleading in some situations. Children fall into four categories of BMI measurements. The first category is underweight children whose BMI is below the 5th percentile. The second category is normal weight children whose BMI is between 5th and 85th percentile. The third category is overweight children whose BMI ranges between from 85th and 95th percentiles. The last category is obese children whose BMI is at or above 95th percentile.
Why kids and teens are getting fatter
The rising obesity rates among children and teens means that they are eating more and moving their bodies less. As a fact of the matter about 4 times as many teens and children are overweight as in early 1960’s. The ways of life has changed since then and, ways that promote weight gain have been on adoption. There are several reasons that are contributing to overweight among children and teenagers. One of these factors is the lack of enough incidental physical activity. Children do not get the amount of incidental physical activity that they use to obtain. In the past, kids and teenagers were likely to run to the store on errands for parents, walk to schools and bike to sports team practices. More than half of the kids use to walk to school forty years ago. Many children today do not walk to school. One reason is that walking to school is not safe for some children. In most areas where children live, sidewalks usually end at the entrance of housing areas or subdivisions. Modern suburban designs bring subdivision streets to connect to high traffic roadways hence, making biking and walking dangerous. Many schools locations are at busy highways dangerous for children to bike or travel by foot. The other reason why kids and teens are turning to be overweight is the lack of physical play. Many children are growing up in homes with computers, televisions, DVDs and video games players among others (Shilstone, 2009). They spent more time using these entertainment devices that they do in physical activities or in play. The parent’s worries about their children’s safety keeps many children indoors. This is particularly true in many inner cities, where youths have high overweight and obesity rates. Physical inactivity can cause a child or a teenage to be overweight. The other cause of overweight among kids and teenagers is the market junk food. Many advertisements aimed at kids and teenagers are for food. What marketers are marketing for consumption is mostly full of fats and sugar. Four out of five food adverts for children are for fast foods, salty snacks, soft drinks and sugary cereals. The food companies know that these adverts work hence televisions are full of food advertisements directed to children. Only few adverts by manufacturers are for fruits, vegetables, grains and beans among others. Studies have shown that an average child gets about half of his or her calories from additional fats or sugar. Children respond to these advertisements by eating large portions of these unhealthy foods, while engaging in other inactive activities, and watching television. The other cause of overweight among children and teenagers is eating out. Today, about 47 % of the money spent by Americans on food is spent on restaurants. This percentage is double of what was spent in 1955. People choose to eat out for some reasons. These reasons include the fast-paced lifestyle, an appetite for salty and sweet food, and the relatively low cost of fast food. Poor people living in inner cities also, eat out at many fast-food outlets, and their locations are near their homes. There are few grocery stores in many neighborhoods since, grocery chains do not operate there. Getting healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits is difficult in the inner city. The other cause of overweight is portion distortion in many fast foods (Page & Page 2006). One of the problems in eating out is that one gets a portion of food that is more than double of what is taken as a normal portion. For example, a couple of years ago, coca cola products were sold in 6.5-ounce bottles, which have today, changed to 20-32-ounce bottles, and designed for individual consumption. The portion distortion has led to kids and teenagers consuming foods with a lot of calories hence, turning to be overweight. Many children are consuming calorie-dense foods. They are not only eating more and moving less, but they also eat more calorie dense foods such as pizza, chips, hamburgers and soft drinks. The demand for such foods has increased over the past years. For example, when Burger King introduced its omelet sandwich, which has two eggs, two slices of cheese, and three strips of bacon its breakfast sales increased by 20 %.
Negative impacts on health of overweight in children and adolescents
There are various problems and consequences of overweight in school-aged youths. Risk factors for heart diseases like high cholesterol as well as HP that is blood pressure, which are associated with overweight, occur with increased frequency. Fat children are likely to grow into fat adults. Overweight adolescents have about 70 % chances of becoming obese or overweight adults. The chances can increase to 80 % if the parent of that child is overweight or obese. When these children and teenagers turns to be overweight adults, they are at risk for some health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and various forms of cancer. The impacts of overweight go beyond physical health impacts. Children who are overweight do experience tremendous psychological pain as a result of their conditions. They are likely to suffer from feelings of inferiority, poor self-image and rejection by society. They are often ridiculed, teased and left out for athletics, games and other activities. The isolation and rejection that result from such treatment can be a source of intense frustration. The treatment may also make child or teenagers withdraw, act out and overeat (Page & Page, 2006).
Substantial weight gain among young girls can trigger premature puberty as early as 8 years in some girls. On the same note, puberty triggers additional weight gain and, in about two years later, the girls begins menstruation and reaches full height. When extra weight gain triggers premature puberty among young girls, the girl looses inches in height that she would have achieved. This makes her lose the opportunity of catching up or grow into the added weight.
The social and emotional fallout of being overweight or fat
Too many people especially teens and children, looks are everything. As a result, teenagers who are overweight or fat are subjected to teasing, insults, ridicule and ostracism among other offensive remarks. In some extreme cases, it can result into physical abuse. Bullies in schools take a perverse delight in bullying fat kids. Kids can be merciless and unforgiving. In their age, they become increasingly aware of the environment and the world around them (Alexander, 2005). If some of their peers deviates from the norms like having physical defect or characteristics that single them out, kids will target the others who are different from them. To those who are fat, it turns to be a social disorder. For those kids and teenagers who are fat and overweight, they are susceptible to insults. There are broad lexicons of epithets that are thrown to overweight boys and girls by other in their age groups. Demeaning terms for fatness enters into the kids’ vocabulary all the time with the same malicious intent or result. One of these results is potentially serious psychological problems that could turn to be long term. A child could be literally scared of life. One of the crucial questions among fat kids is if the overweight child is overeating due to emotional distress or has turned to food for comfort and solace. If an overweight child or teen seems depressed or moody, the problem could be short-term or long-term. Overweight and obese children are on the low end of the social totem pole. While fatness may be hereditary, eating practices inherited by kids may also be serious contributing factor to being fat (Alexander, 2005).
IQ and learning in overweight kids and teens
From a journal, published in the journal of pediatrics in 2006, children who are obese at the age of four years are likely to have low IQ scores. Doctors who were involved in the study were not certain about the connection between early childhood obesity and intelligence. However, they indicated that the first years of life are extremely critical for brain development. In the study, children who were obese at the age of four were found to have white spots on various parts or regions of their brains (Alexander, 2005). The white spots were not understood by individuals who were conducting these studies. Further research is required to interpret these white spots. Another different study was done a month later and indicated that girls who became fat between the time they started their learning at kindergarten, and finished their third grade suffered a notable decline in their test scores and social skills. To some extent, this is a social health impact. Some factors regarding intelligence that need to taken into account include the child’s family’s social economic background.
Although eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorders are common in adolescents and old kids, they may be deep rooted in problems that began in childhood. Even though, children with these conditions are not obese or overweight; they may think that they are. While they try to live up to various unrealistic standards of body weight expectations, many kids and teens ends up developing one of these eating disorders (Page & Page, 2006). Kids with anorexia nervosa have an unrealistic fear of gaining weight, and they think they are fat while, in actual sense, they are not fat. Self-starvation is the primary cause. The teens not only fear gaining weight, they also fear having unrealistic images. Bulimia nervosa involves binge eating and then trying to purge most or all what was consumed. Persons with such disorders try to force themselves to vomit. For children and teens diagnosed with anorexia they have a 5-7 % chance of dying within ten years.
Bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorders are concerns that need to be taken seriously. They are difficult conditions to deal with but, they can be effectively treated. Although they share strong psychological components, there are some genetic influences in these disorders. The genetic components, which cannot be altered, are not as strong as psychological components, which can be altered.
In the past recent years, the number of diagnosed cases of diabetes has risen and it expected to rise further to 165 % by 2050. The center for diseases control and prevention warned that United States children born are in a risk of becoming diabetic unless people start eating quality food and exercising a lot. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is diet-related and, develops during childhood or adolescence. The disease used to be refereed to as adult-onset diabetes since it occurred mostly in women and men over age 50 (Alexander, 2005). Today, the disease is showing up at an increasing rate among kids and adolescent who are overweight or obese and physically inactive. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin, but for unexplainable reasons, the body cannot use the insulin effectively. The condition is called insulin resistance. After sometimes, the production of insulin stops. The uncontrolled blood sugar can harm blood vessels and result to serious health implication. If not contained, type 2diabetes can lead to serious and life threatening conditions such as kidney diseases, blindness, nerve damages and heart disease. Children with type 2 diabetes have a long time in which to develop these complications than individuals who develop the disease later. Over the last decade, diabetes in United States has escalated upwards. Various health experts have attributed these increases to the fact that many children in United States have become heavy, and obesity is rising at an alarming rate (Page & Page, 2006).
Although health problems are not common in childhood, children who continue to be overweight in adulthood have a significant risk of developing high blood fats, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, stroke, and various forms of cancer. Parents are highly advised to help their children and teenagers fight overweight, since they are the closest persons to these children. It is not common for medical conditions to cause children become overweight (Shilstone, 2009). Parents should check with their doctors if they are concerned.
Prevention of overweight
Trying to help overweight children and teenagers is crucial but trying to prevent them from becoming overweight should be prioritized. Preventing overweight among children and teens is not easy and, needs to be started at childhood. If the child has overweight parents, there are high chances of suffering from the same condition. Behaviors that lead children and teenagers should e targeted in the prevention of getting fatter among them. These behaviors include lack of physical exercise and unhealthy eating disorders. There are some tips for preventing teenagers and kids from becoming fatter. First of all, the number of calories that kids and teenagers drink should be regulated. Many children like drinking sodas and juice each day (Alexander, 2005). Parents should give their children the usual, recommended limits of about 4-6 ounces of 100, 5 fruit juice to kids under the age of 6 years. For the case of teenagers, 8-12 ounces can help to limit the weight gain. The other way of preventing teenagers and kids from getting fatter is through limiting the amount of milk that young children drink. Drinking milk is crucial since it is an excellent source of calcium, however, taking too much milk can cause a child to become overweight. Obesity starts from early childhood and it is a common to children who consume too much milk. The recommended amount of milk that a child should consume is about 16-24 ounce of milk daily. They should not be allowed to consume beyond that limit.
Teenagers and kids should also avoid frequent meals of fast foods. As discussed earlier in this paper, fast foods are not healthy for consumption hence to avoid becoming fatter, kids and teenagers should avoid them. Parent should not supersize their children’s’ meals. This is a common problem that contributes to children and teenagers getting fatter. Meals should be in correct proportion and should not be supersized. Parents should not force their children to clean their plates. This is a crucial way of helping children learn that eating healthy is for them knowing that they can stop eating when full. Some parents force their kids to consume all the food placed on their plates even if they are full. This is not a healthy eating habit. Teenagers and kids should be encouraged to participate in several physical activity and regular exercises every day. They include going for a walk as a family, riding bicycles, playing outside, participating in organized sports among others (Alexander, 2005). Parents should also limit inactivity through setting limits on watching television and engaging in video and computer games. Children should be discouraged from eating while watching television, and meals should be limited to the dinner tables. Also, parents should not direct too much effort on what children eat. However, they should healthy diets with three healthy meals. Parents should know what their kids and teenagers are eating and where their calories are coming from. Parents can be role models to their children and teenagers, by exercising regularly and eating healthy diets.
Physical inactivity among teenagers and kids is a serious cause for concern. There is a pattern of inactivity that may persist throughout youth and, into adulthood. Individuals who are physically inactive are likely to miss out on the health benefits that are enjoyed by individuals who are bodily fit. There are numerous benefits associated with physical activity on health. One of them is lowered death rates for adults. The second one is decreased risk of death from coronary heart diseases. There is also reduced blood pressure for those with high blood pressure (Alexander, 2005). The health benefits of physical activities are not limited to adults. Physical participation among children and adolescents can lead to building and maintaining healthy bones, joints and muscles. They also help to control weight, reduce fats and build lean muscles. Physical exercises among children and teens prevent the development of high blood pressure and help to reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension. The feeling of depression and anxiety are reduced through physical exercises. Very few teenagers and children in United States participate in vigorous ‘physical activities. Participation in all types of activity declines strikingly as age increases.
In conclusion, parents can do a lot to help teens and kids who are fat. Many books and journal have been devoted to helping kids with diverse stressors related to fatness such as peer pressure, violence and drugs among others. The parents should be available to openly discuss and communicate with their kids and teenagers. They should also be encouraging self responsibility and self-confidence among their children. Being fat not only has physical ramification among kids and teenagers but, it contains heavy emotional baggage. Parents are advised to be aware of the early time signs of depression in children arising from being fat.
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