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Obesity has affected 93.3 million US adults in 2015-2016 (usda.gov). The conditions related to obesity are cardiac disease, Type II diabetes, stroke and premature forms of cancer that can mostly be prevented with a change in lifestyle. Obesity has affected children in developed countries resulting in 1 in 5 children being classified as obese. The causes for these staggering numbers are the result of a heavily marketed fast food industry, lack of parental education and unhealthy school lunches. In order to make an attempt to fix the high obesity rates, schools and parents need to be educated on the detrimental effects of childhood obesity and the programs needs to be implemented in more schools to provide the students with healthier lunches.
According to the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, “American adults are eating better, making better use of available nutrition information, and consuming fewer calories coming from fat and saturated fat, consuming less cholesterol and eating more fiber”. This research also found that use of nutrition information has increased in recent years, reduced consumption of food away from home, and a belief that individuals are more inclined to make “healthier choices when their actions directly affect their body weight”. All of this healthy thinking does not drive results when their healthy choices consist of granola bars that are loaded with harmful sugars and foods that claim they are healthy simply because it says so on the packaging. According to Michael Pollen, “If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”. Most healthy food contains coatings and anti-nutrients that cause the food not to absorb into the body as easily as it would if it were all natural.
America may be developed, contain the finest of hospitals, medicines, infrastructure, and education but little do others know, America is failing to maintain the obesity rates in both children and adults. The United States ranks 20th in one of the most obese countries worldwide. The main cause for the high obesity rates is due to socioeconomic status, genetics, technological advances, change of eating habits, mental health, level of physical activity, and many more.
There has been a meteoric rise over the past two decades in the medical research and media coverage of the so-called global childhood obesity epidemic. Recently, in light of the phenomenon, there have been many books and articles in the fields with regards to sociology and cultural studies that argue that this so-called epidemic is socially constructed. While some may argue it is a postmodern epidemic. I would agree with both sides of the argument. I think this epidemic is both a postmodern situation as well as a social situation. Today, we have more than enough for us to be able to just sit back and lounge to rather than more outdoor activities and exercises. It is so easy to just sit back and relax a little too much in today’s world. Socially speaking, children today can sit on the couch and watch movies or TV shows with friends or get onto a gaming platform and talk to their friends all day or night on that rather than going around to one another outside and doing outside activities.
Children today are at a higher risk of future problems while encountering obesity at such an early stage. Numbers continue to rise with obese children. While children are normally less opted to have medical issues rather than adults, they are setting themselves up for an obese adult. Which in turn, places them at a higher risk of chronic health disorders such as heart disease and diabetes. Children today, like stated before, are becoming overweight for a variety of reasons but most commonly because of the lack of physical activity. Becoming overweight at a young age makes children more prone to develop stress, depression, and low self-esteem as well. Keeping children in our modern-day society is extremely important even just because of the few issues I have already addressed and many more. We need to make an important point of this because we do not want our children to have these stressors not only at an early age but later in life as well.
Childhood obesity can run in families which is understandable. But, not all children are born with a family history of obesity and it brings me back to the social aspect of children today. Children whose mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc., are overweight are at a higher risk of becoming overweight just because of the people they are surrounded by. This can be linked to shared family behaviors such as poor dieting and lack of physical activities. As today’s technology advances and becomes increasingly popular, children’s inactivity levels may increase as well.
Persuasively speaking, parents today need to limit the increased amount of inactivity of their children. By that, I mean they need to control how long their children watch television, play video games and stare at their phones as well. Physical activity growing up as a child is so important not only for social skills but for the main reason here, preventing childhood obesity in America. Children are increasingly getting smart phones at a very early age now. Making them more inclined to pay more attention to that rather than going outside and doing what children should be doing. In a more obvious perspective, if our children sit around all day and are inactive, what we are encountered with is lazy obese children. Active children are less prone to heart disease and future chronic disorders which keeps our children healthier. Science proves that most obese children who start off as obese will continue being obese in their adulthood. Access to energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods cook up the perfect storm for children to become overweight at a young age.
Preventing obesity in general is a hard task to overcome with today’s current food options. One step to preventing obesity in many children and young adults is to change our food options in schools. As said in an article from the USDA, “Good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success. Providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will complement the gains made with the new, healthy standards for school breakfast and lunch so the healthy choice is the easy choice for our kids.” Something that was said by the USDA as well was that they want to target standards. Allowing only certain age groups to consume beverage portion size and caffeine content. I would agree with this suggestion because younger kids should be limited on how much they consume and consuming too much caffeine allows those younger kids to eat more. With caffeine, it raises your heartbeat and your metabolism. Faster metabolism is going to make us eat more, especially at a younger age. Collectively, certain polices will help combat obesity in America and improve the health and nutrition.
A study conducted by Stanford Health Care stated that; “15% percent of children aged six to nineteen are considered overweight. Over sixty percent of adults are considered overweight or obese.” Fifteen and sixty percent are very large and embarrassing percentages for America. Starting at an early age, we can change things we do for our children. Like breastfeeding for example. Breast feeding for too long can result in overweight children as they grow older. Stanford Health Care says, “The longer babies are breastfed, the less likely they are to become overweight as they grow older. Breastfed babies are 15 to 25 percent less likely to become overweight. For those who are breastfed for six months or longer, the likelihood is 20 to 40 percent less.” This is one small step in taking action against obesity for the growth of infants.
Changing or preventing obesity in American adults is a major concern as well. Like stated before, changing eating habits and increasing physical activity are key factors to take into consideration while trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Some things to take into consideration whether you are trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain are eating five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day, choose whole grain foods, stay away from highly processed foods, weigh and measure food to get an understanding of portion sizes so you do not overeat, weigh yourself regularly, eating more calories than you burn will lead to weigh gain, make time for exercise, and keep a routine for workouts. Keeping a healthy life style can sometimes feel like a second job. Once it becomes normal for you or a routine that you are comfortable with it is as if you never even changed but you will see such a dramatic impact on your life. It will keep the fat off and keep you energetic.
Finally in this essay I’d like to stress about childhood obesity and what we can do to prevent it because if we start our lives off right, we can continue living our life healthy and energetic. For parents raising children I would recommend (along with many other sources) to keep eating habits to the dinner table. Stanford says, “Change the habits and the weight will take care of itself.” Being a role model to your children is very important as well since we all know children will take after their parents on what they say and do at such a young age. Parents who eat healthy and exercise regularly should expect to see their children doing the same. Factors that help with obesity are to encourage physical activity, limit television time to two hours or less a day, encourage them to eat slowly and only when hungry, keep the house stocked with clean healthy foods rather than junk food and snacks, and lastly, encourage them to drink more water or sports drinks with fruit juice rather than sugary beverages.
Keeping a healthy environment and staying active are key factors for preventing obesity in America. Sadly, In America it is extremely easy for us to buy more processed foods for less rather than more healthy foods for less. Therefore, allowing the American population to suffer under high obesity rates. I encourage everyone to take a step in changing their lives, one grocery bag at a time. Take the opportunity to change your eating habits and start trying to convince other to eat healthy as well. Stay active and pay attention to what is food and what is fake food. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible to ensure your body’s health is at its healthiest rate. Fast food restaurants are not clean eating choices. If buying groceries and cooking is too difficult for you, just start to learn with the simple things and you will grow from there. If you have kids, keep them healthy and keep them active! It can be a struggle in the beginning but in the end, you will thank yourself for not being another statistic in America’s obesity population.
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