One of the biggest issues we have in America today is one that affects the current generation of children nearly as much as it does adults. What is that problem? Childhood obesity. Obesity is a condition characterized by excessive storage of fat. Currently, Over eighteen percent of American children are obese. This problem arose through a variety of influences, ranging from inactivity, to the media and our culture and sets children on a path that can follow them throughout the rest of their lives.
Childhood obesity can be linked to many things, but foremost among them is inactivity. We all know “People can take in too many calories by eating too many burgers and fries, chips, dips, and nachos, and by drinking too many sweetened soft drinks”(Obesity 2). If children consume these sorts of foods on a daily basis they are currently living a very unhealthy lifestyle. In most cases “as the amount of calories from food is greater than the amount of calories used by activity, children gain weight and become overweight or obese” (Obesity 2).
Eating these foods with high amounts of fats and sugars can cause this. Unhealthy foods decrease your metabolism and make it increasingly harder to burn off such substances. Today it’s rare to see children “turn of the television, computer, and video games in favor of physical activity” (Obesity 2). To burn off excessive fat calories children need to be active. When a child experiences overnourishment combined with a lack of physical activity obesity becomes a possibility.
If all children ate healthy foods and got at least thirty minutes of exercise a day, child obesity rates would be significantly decreased.
Children are exposed to electronics and media everywhere they go. This includes television, phones, computers, and even billboards. Everyday in our current American society, “media influence on children has steadily increased as new and more sophisticated types of media have been developed and made available to the American public” (Clark 1). Electronics are readily available to the majority of young children in America. The use of these electronics, for good or ill, has had a significant amount of influence on children. Another factor is that “the average American child spends more than twenty hours per week viewing television” (Clark 6). Time that children once spent running outside or playing with friends is now consumed by electronics. This increase in time spent by children using media for recreation “has been shown to be a significant factor in childhood obesity due to associated physical inactivity” (Clark 6). While many children are involved in some sort of recreational sport or activity, other children are not. These children are more likely to be watching tv or occupied with their phones rather than getting exercise.
The greatest cause of child obesity comes from our culture. We now have “more supersized portions , with portions in some fast food restaurants having almost tripled since the 1970s” (Davidson, Trish, and Alic 2). Only a half a century ago our country was not struggling with obesity. Clearly our eating habits have changed drastically since the 1950’s and 60s. We have also “increased advertising for high-sugar, high-fat foods directed at children” (Davidson, Trish, and Alic 2). The majority of fast food restaurants prepare dishes that provide very minimal nutritional value. This food is marketed to parents and children as being health beneficial. Over the past two decades “the number of obese children has doubled and the number of adolescents has tripled” (Davidson, Trish, and Alic 1). The increase in supersized portions and advertising for them causes children to grow up with a lifestyle in which eating this food is considered normal. Obesity in childhood can set the stage for a lifetime of weight control struggles.
Others claim that “lifestyle is not the only cause of obesity” (Obesity 2). However, It does play a significant role in it. The real question to be answered is, does obesity stem from lifestyle choices or heredity? Researchers think that “people who have inherited “obesity genes” may use calories at a slower rate than others (Obesity 2). While this may be true, parents need to be conscious of their child’s eating habits. Irregardless of a child’s metabolism, the only way to truly prevent obesity is by eating nutrient dense foods. Others also feel that “obesity is usually a result of repeated binge eating” (Hain 2). The binge eating is a result of eating foods providing hundreds of empty calories. If more children in America lived lives with a higher priority placed on a healthier nutrition based diet, the incidence of childhood obesity would dramatically decreased.
The lifestyle of our current American society greatly impacts this generation of children. Childhood obesity is a condition that can be prevented by eating foods that are more nutritious, and not foods that are marketed as being “healthier” but not necessarily healthy. We created this problem through influences from inactivity, the media and our culture of more is better. Even knowing this, people will still continue to feed their children foods with excess amounts of fat, sugar and sodium. If you knew this caused so many health issues, would you change your diet?