Child Obesity

Emma Frey, Staff Writer

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Since the 90s, America has been getting seriously obese. In the past 30 years, the occurrence of overweight in children has tripled and it is now estimated that one in five children in the US is overweight. The increase in obesity among young children has many potential factors: food choices at home, parenting styles, lack of exercise, genetics, metabolism, too much screen time, lack of sleep, excess sugar just to name a few.

The distractions of cell phones and technology is adding a whole new piece to solving this puzzle. Teresa Thomas, Health Science teacher at Mount Vernon High School, has stressed her concern that kids are not taking enough care of their bodies due to the distraction of their cellphone. “ It is my hope that both kids and adults become aware that they only get one body, a beautiful wonderful miracle. More valuable and more talented than any smartphone could ever be and if they would care as much about that one body as they do about a replaceable cell phone, then many of these issues would be eliminated.” said Thomas. The overuse of screentime is leading to lack of sleep, weight gain, and unhealthy behaviors among young kids. Instead of kids playing a game outside and getting exercise, they now tend to be content with sitting on the couch and playing games on their smartphones or tablets…alone. Not only is this causing obesity but is creating a lack of social skills and can cause a child to feel alone and depressed, which can all result to a child wanting to stay at home more and stress eat.

Elementary schools in Skagit Valley are now working to help prevent obesity in their students. P.E. teachers are now asking for parents not to bring candy, donuts, or cake for kids celebrations because of the large content of high fructose corn syrup. Cheryl Breum, MVHS Health Teacher, believes we need to change the kids mindsets. Families can help to keep their children healthier by home cooking more meals with organic foods. “We have to teach them that over time they can maintain a healthy weight, especially since they are still growing.”

Kids are becoming more obese at a much younger age nowadays, which is actually more dangerous than if you were to become obese later in life. When gaining weight in key development stages in our life; fetal stage, 1st year, puberty, and during pregnancy, we develop more fat cells. This causes our body to crave food to fill them, making us hungrier. Joan Pfeiffer, Registered Dietitian, works every day to help people struggling with this issue.”  It’s really sad when I see kids with type 2 diabetes. This is an older adult disease,” said Pfeiffer. Helping kids who are obese to become healthier is a difficult task, says Pfeiffer. Usually the parents of these children are also obese and is serving kids the poor nutrients. Breaking these habits must be a family effort for most. To teach kids where to begin, Pfeiffer helps them learn what is good for them to eat. “We generally have to start with the kids learning to eat vegetables. This will help with weight loss.”

Along with this, babies who are fed formula are more prone to becoming overweight. This is not only from the formula itself, but from the heavier flow that comes from the bottle nipple. This causes the baby to be consuming much more milk than what it would by breastfeeding naturally. There are ways to prevent overweight in children and that is encouraged to parents, “exclusive breastfeeding for the 1st year or 2. (The world average is 4 yrs.), start feeding solids at around 7 months (instead of what many recommend, which is 4-6 months), start vegetables first, then protein foods like lentil (easier to digest), than fruits.  Then some grains. This helps the taste buds develop a liking for other things besides sugar,” Pfeiffer said.

Will obesity amongst younger kids keep getting worse? “ Yes, unless, as a society, we take a stand against the food industry and be willing to spend some tax money to educate parents on how to feed kids appropriately,” said Pfeiffer. Thomas believes a little different. “I hope that will all the information out there on damages occurring to young kids, that families will change their poor habits.” She is also worried that distractions with cell phones could easily have a negative effect and prevent this from happening.

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Child Obesity