Childhood Obesity

At one time, this was not a household term.

The idea of an obese child was once a rare concept and a rarer sight. No longer however. Obesity has become a nationwide epidemic today in the United States, and the problem is growing larger every day.

Now, a study has emerged in the journal Pediatrics, highlighting a crucial flaw in perception that affects our children. Researchers have found that parents are biased in such a way as to dismiss the idea that a child may in fact be overweight.

That point isn’t news – the tendency for parents to evaluate their overweight child and declare them “just fine” has been documented for some time. In fact, if you’ve had any experience with parents of young children, you can probably attest personally to parental misconceptions. “Isn’t he just an angel?” they say, as their 9yr old picks up the family cat and runs off to dunk it in the toilet.

Childhood obesity is increasing - but we're too blind to see it.

The latest study, however, shows something new – that cases of this, specific to childhood obesity, are increasing.

Statistics were pulled from 1988 through 1994, as well as from 2005 through 2010. In the earlier study, parents of overweight children, on average, felt their childs’ weight was normal or ideal 69% of the time. For parents of obese children, this number dropped to 24%.

In the later study from 2005-2010, parents rated their overweight children as ideal 80% of the time, and their obese children 35% of the time. Overall, parents’ ability to discern that their child is overweight dropped by 24%.

Why would this be the case? These numbers are percentages – so the fact that childhood obesity has tripled wouldn’t affect them… or would it?

Ever look at old photographs, say from the early 1900’s?

Ever notice how those people were incredibly thin and wiry? Well consider this – childhood obesity has tripled, and adult obesity has climbed in recent years to over 30% of the population.

Granted, in the 1920’s, the people you most often see photographed were manual laborers who worked hard and ate less, so their bodies WERE somewhat thin on average. But overall, Americans have become fatter, and our perception has changed to match.

In the wake of the obesity pandemic in America, we tend to compare ourselves and our children with our peers or our childrens’ friends to maintain a positive image we can hang onto.

Is this shift in thinking and lifestyle something we’ve simply brought upon ourselves? Not entirely.

Smoking used to be 'good for you'... It used to be socially acceptable. It used to be cool. Today, being overweight is socially acceptable. And while not entirely 'cool', it's certainly defended by many.

Step back in time only about 20 years, and smoking cigarettes was much more socially acceptable. The health risks of smoking became more and more apparent, and we enacted laws restricting tobacco advertisements, places where people were allowed to smoke, and more.

Since then, smoking has been on the decline in America – but at the same time, more and more people are turning to food as a stress and anxiety relief mechanism. Further, smoking is an appetite suppressant – so combine a decrease in smoking with an increase in food consumption and you’ve got today’s world.

Fewer people are dying today from cigarette-related diseases, but many more ARE dying from weight-related illnesses.

Obesity is every bit as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. And just as preventable.

Weight-related diseases are no less deadly than smoking related diseases.

Both kinds sap away your quality of life. Both kinds provide a very unappealing way to go. If you’ve lost a relative to diabetes, or heart disease, you know what they had to fight off just to stay alive. You know the sacrifices they had to make simply to stick around a little while longer.

Thinking that over-eating is any less destructive to your body than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcoholically or even playing Russian roulette is a grave mistake in judgment. And we’re becoming increasingly blinded to the risk.

Childhood obesity is becoming a major health risk across America. This is the next generation. Our chance to nurture a better future.

You don’t have to be anorexic to be healthy.

...But you must learn to identify healthy weight and good physical fitness, versus the level to which the average American has slipped.

We were born to move. Born to be fit and agile and physically capable. Those lanky, wiry men in the construction photos were incredibly strong because they had to be.

We with our smartphones and laptops and televisions and office jobs may think we’re better off because we have all the handy gadgets, better levels of health care, safer cars… But we’re not.

We’ve given up our physical fitness, and it’s becoming so prevalent that we don’t even realize it.