OBESITY IN CHILDHOOD
Arantxa Domnguez Acevedo
CHLD 2 Child Development & Growth: Prenatal to Early Childhood
Professor: Bharti Dave Date: 04/30/2016
Authorities and researchers have talked of the Obesity in children as an
epidemic. A paper from 2007 assured that by 2010 it is expected that the number of
overweight children will increase significantly worldwide, with almost 50% of children in
North America and 38% of children in the European Union becoming overweight .
That is a big number, and the most dangerous consequences are the medical and
psychological issues associated with obesity. I will talk about consequences further in
The Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to
the extent that it may have a negative effect on health. People are generally considered
obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a
person's weight by the square of the person's height, is over 30 kg/m2, with the
range 2530 kg/m2 defined as overweight [a]. As we can see in the following picture
the obesity is a worldwide concern because of its increasing rates.
Figure 1: Obesity rates increasing worldwide. Source .
Childhood is a target time in the development of children for the instauration of
healthy values, nutrition knowledge and activity and sports routines. Having a son
makes me realized how important is nutrition and physical activity in the development of
my baby, so I am very interested on doing well and provide my son opportunities to
healthy develop and learn how to do good and healthy meal choices.
Obesity is a multifactorial problem that involves several agents that are in touch
with the childrens life. Some of these agents can indeed be responsible of the increase
of the obesity rates on children. We can approach to the problem from the parents,
school, peers and media point of view.
2.1 Family approach.
From the Parents point of view, there are several socio-demographic factors that
can predict the chance of obesity in children. Poverty and obesity go by hand. Fresh
food is pricey and sometimes, not easily available in the neighbor grocery store. Low-
income homes correlate with insufficiency healthy choices. Sometimes not choosing
healthy choices is a matter of money but sometimes there is a lack of knowledge on
how to eat healthy.
Another factor why parents buy fast food is because they dont have time to go
grocery. It is easier to go to a fast food restaurant chain with a drive trough and get
some dollar menu for dinner [v1]. Furthermore, processed food is cheaper than natural
and fresh food. Processed food is also ready to eat so parents do not need to spend
time cooking or thinking what to eat.
2.2. School approach.
They are offering healthy choices at school cafeteria but they are still offering
high carbohydrates offers as well. Furthermore, the salads and fresh choices are less
appealings and appetizing than other choices (pizza, sandwiches, potatoes) [v2].
Researchers call the food provided aside the meal, competitive foods . These foods
are the snacks and sodas that are sold outside the meal school program and those are
high in low-nutrition levels and energy dense. The competitive foods have a deep
impact in the nutrition of the children. When some schools have applied restricted
policies for competitive foods, they have found that children choose schools meals 30%
It is also a matter of money, because there are no law restrictions for this food,
and some schools are afraid to loose revenue if they do not sell competitive foods.
2.3. Peer approach.
Childhood is a special time in life where relationship with peers is a crucial
process. When children are between 5-11 years old, they experience their first
friendships and significant relationships with peers . Peers are an influence source
of beliefs, habits and knowledge and can transfer certain obesity tendencies
2.4. Media and food industry approach.
Doctor Mark Hyman has reveled a secret meeting among several CEOs of
important companies in the food industry. In that meeting Doctors and the CEOs tried
to reach consensus in cutting sugar, fat and salt in their products. The meeting was a
failure and the companies argued that they had already healthy choices in the market.
Dr. Hyman assures the problem is not having healthy choices, the problem is the
amount of sugar, salt and fat in their products, are that high dose are driving people
addicted and overweight. As we can see in the picture below, since 20 years ago, the
size of serving in restaurants, ready meals and even at home, have experienced an
increase. Nowadays, restaurant meals are likely to feed 2-3 people.
Figure 2. Portion distortion Source: http://strongweightloss.net/education/portion-distortion/
Some studies have shown that the time children spend watching TV and with
other devices is linked with their body weight. It is also linked with time of exercise: at
much time watching TV, less time practicing exercise [v2]. The Academy of Pediatrics
also have warned that todays children watch too much TV, practice too less exercise,
watch too many junk food advertisements and dont get enough sleep.
Obesity is a multifactorial disease that can lead to devastating consequences
both for children and adults. The consequences do not only affect the health of the
children but also their psychological health and social relationships. The following figure
shows the medical consequences of being obese. One that surprised me is the
incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, some studies have shown that more and more cases are
found in childhood and adolescence .
Figure 3: Complications of childhood obesity. Source 
Psychologically, children are affected. Obese children feel rejected and
sometimes bullied. In the crucial period of the childhood, the negative feelings can lead
children to depression, low self-steem and eating disorders such a bulimia and binge
Furthermore, the relationships with peers are affected and obese children find
more difficult to be connected with other children. Some studies suggest that bias,
negative beliefs and stereotypes have been found in children regarding to other obese
children. Children tend to think obese peers are more likely to be lazy, stupid, ugly,
selfish, getting teased and having few friends .
Even if there are lots of things to do; it is also true that there are several public
and private programs that seek the decrease of obesity in children by education and
physical activity. One example of that is the program that the First Lady Michelle Obama
created in 2010, Lets Move!. The program looks for the healthy growth of future
From the point of view of parents, we should be healthy models for our children.
Children of parents who eat healthy and exercise are more likely to follow this life style
on the future [v1]. There are also other tools and activities that we can use for healthy
eating and life style.
One of the basic knowledge is the Food Pyramid for healthy eating. The pyramid
represents the healthy intake of food groups.
Figure 4: Pyramid and portion food - Source: https://melaniescorner.wordpress.com/
The concept of portion of food is an easy way to know hoy much food should we
eat. For a balanced diet, the normal amount of food should be the size of our palm. The
portion of a toddler would be smaller than a child because of the difference on their
height and weight [v1]. Another interesting tool to check our intake of food is by creating
a Meal Journal to be aware of what we are eating. Following there is a list of further tips
for the healthy eating and life, from the different agents that are involved in the
Figure 5: Tips for prevention and treatment of obesity in childhood. Source .
As we can see in the list, the conclusion is that the agents should provide
opportunities for children to have a healthy food choices and practice sports or other
After reviewing the literature and seeing the documentaries, I can conclude the
Obesity in children is an epidemic issue that exists worldwide. The good news are that
parents, schools and all agents involving childrens life, can influence and reverse the
increase of the epidemic. My conclusion is that children need to have opportunities and
choices for being healthy and stay active. Parents should be the models but also Media
and Schools that influence the most- should be in the same page.
Because childhood is a decisive stage of life, parents and schools should provide
good foundations for building habits and relationships. Children are more likely to
internalize new concepts and routines by playing fun activities so we should go this way,
creating fun learning situations.
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