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Old 04-23-2011, 07:01 PM   #1
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Default Obesity epidemic in children...

I am just wondering to hear from people who know about the issue, as well as people who have children themselves, what are we doing to curb obesity in youth.

General market stores are now offering plus size clothing for children. I know when I was a kid, I would have loved to have plus size clothing offered instead of having to shop in the juniors section at age 10 and 11. It was embarrassing. However, it must be a really big problem if stores are making a profit off of selling these clothes! There must be a big percentage of children!

I work at a summer camp for children with disabilities and the past 3 summers we have started offering a 'weight management' program for children above the 95 percentile for weight. Most of the kids we take are teenagers, but this past summer I've seen children as young as 5 come through. A 5 year old weighing 115 lbs. Or 16-year-olds weighing close to 400 lbs. I suppose with the older children it can have a bit to do with their own choices, though this stuff has to be parent taught right? I don't think our weight management program for children is very effective, as the kids can come to camp for the 7 weeks and lose weight, but if they're back the next year they seem to be right back where they started because they're not getting help and support at home.

I have two stepchildren (ages 1 and 3) and to me it seems like when they're over here they are constantly hungry and eating. Before they come, I always make effort to cut up lots of veggies and fruits so that they can snack at will, and I've discovered that instead of dressings, they are just as happy to dip their snacks in no-sugar-added applesauce. I also try to serve a balanced meals that always include a meat, vegetable, and often carbs in the form of a brown or whole grain. When I let them eat like that the whole day I don't mind letting them have a cookie for desert.

How do we teach kids to keep up with these healthy habits through childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood? I do not want my children to have to go through the troubles that I had growing up... It will still be awhile before they'll be making any of their own decisions regarding what they are snacking on. I don't want to label foods as 'good' and 'bad', and I really hope there is a way I can instruct them so that when they are old enough to be out on their own they don't go overboard on the types of foods that we don't have in our house. I'm not worried about their weight right now... they are fine, healthy, active kids. I just don't want to see them go through something in the future that I could have helped to prevent.

Advice from parents or people who work with children? Does anyone here have obese children, and how are you working with them?

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Old 04-23-2011, 08:08 PM   #2
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I don't work with children or have any but I am doing a medical based degree so I can give you some sciencey stuff.

The cause of the rise in obesity in children is pretty much the same as the cause in adults. unfortunately there's not a definite answer but the general consensus is that it's a number of different factors:


A couple of trends about the change in our diets:
Increased consumption of foods with a high glycaemic index (e.g. refined flour)
Decline in consumption of fibre
Increased consumption of energy-dense foods and drinks (increased consumption of fast food and increased portion sizes)
Increased snacking

Interestingly, there's actually been a decline in the amount of saturated fat that's consumed, and there's an idea that weight problems in children are linked to sugar, specifically fizzy drinks. I guess some people don't realise that drinks can make you fat.

Activity level

There's been a fall in the amount of exercise that children get and basically they're eating more than they're burning. The Department of Health actually recommends that children should spend at least 60 minutes a day in moderate intensity physical activity. Research has shown that inactivity starts in childhood and continues into adulthood.

The difference in activity compared with 20 years ago, things like TV and video games mean that children just aren't exercising enough.

Lack of exercise in childhood can reduce bone mass, which is irreversible.


Generally speaking, children's bedtimes have gotten later but their waking times have stayed the same.

They think lack of sleep affects hormones which increase appetite, or there's more waking hours so more time to eat.

I think this is probably the biggest reason.

Our environment encourages people to over eat. We have way more access to shops now and they're usually very close so not as much walking
we rely more on cars.
local shops in residential areas usually don't stock healthy foods. (I don't know about the U.S. but this is the case in the U.K.)
parents not letting their children outside because they think it isn't safe
Lack of facilities in some neighbourhoods
Income: healthier foods are more expensive and some people simply don't have the money to send their kids to sports clubs or the time

There's also a social aspect of eating that wasn't the same as it used to be. You used to have people over and cook dinner but now people tend to go out to restaurants or get take outs.

I'm interested to know what people who actually have children think. Theory is all well and good but it doesn't explain individual reasons.

If you want any references to any of that to see where I got it then just ask

Last edited by belmagick; 04-23-2011 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 04-23-2011, 08:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Everlasting View Post
I've seen children as young as 5 come through. A 5 year old weighing 115 lbs. Or 16-year-olds weighing close to 400 lbs. I suppose with the older children it can have a bit to do with their own choices, though this stuff has to be parent taught right?
Not necessarily. I was significantly overweight in kindergarten, probably obese. I was definitely morbidly obese by 11 (I started my period in 4th grade so at 9 or 10).

And I'm the only person in my immediate and extended family to have been overweight as a child. My three siblings were of normal weight as children (my brother was underweight during much of his childhood).

My brother and I were adopted (we're not bio-related). Our younger sisters are my parents bio-kids and they followed the weight patterns of our parents. One (like Mom) was thin until her late 20's early 30's when she (just like Mom)started gaining weight in her butt and thighs. One (just like Dad) has never had a weight problem (except for a few weeks after each pregnancy - like the women in Dad's family). If my youngest sister continues to follow in Dad's footsteps, she'll have a mild problem after retirement, but will get a handle on it within 2 years.

I'm the only person in my family (adoptive family that is, I have no knowledge of my bio-family) to have ever exceeded 300 lbs, which I did by the time I was 22.

My parents tried to get my weight under control, with the help of my doctor. Some of their efforts backfired, and some were just ineffective. I hope childhood obesity treatments are less barbaric than when I was a child (but as I read about children as young as 13 undergoing gastric bypass, I'm not very optimistic on that point).

In my experience, kids are taught (directly or indirectly) to diet the way adults do, and It's just as ineffective. It's the crash diet cycle.

The problem with that kind of dieting is that repeated weight gain is almost inevitable (and the insulin resistance that comes with it).

What most people don't understand about childhood obesity, at least when it involves insulin resistance is the incredible hunger that comes with low-calorie, high-carb diets. Most of my life I felt so hungry that I couldn't think of anything but food. Diets were miserable because I felt (even as a child at 85 lbs overweight and as an adult at 250 lbs overweight) as if I were literally starving to death. I called it "rabid hunger."

As a kid, I went to bed feeling incredibly hungry a lot, and when I complained about it, I was told "you're not hungry, you can't be hungry, you just had dinner x hours ago, or a snack x minutes ago..." Or I was told, "that's good, that means you're losing weight."

My parents weren't perfect. My mother especially struggled with her own weight issues and ambiguous feelings about food. She was afraid that I would get hurt (I wasn't the most coordinated child) so she (unintentionally I believe) disuaded me from physical activity. She once pulled me from tennis lessons because she heard people making fun of me. I was able to deal with it, but she wasn't. She didn't realize that the cure for my lack of coordination was more physical activity, not less. At least I had swimming in the summer (Even today, I would live in the water if I could. It's the only place I feel that my weight doesn't work against me when exercising).

My parents biggest mistake was the desperation they passed on to me about my weight. Everyone (including my doctor) was so intent on getting the weight off fast, that I learned that the method didn't matter. I never questioned the wisdom of liquid diets at 11 or being put on amphetemine diet pills at 13 or 14. If the doctor said it was ok, it must be ok.

What I was never taught was how to make forever habits. Everything was "gung-ho or nothing." I learned how to make changes at an unsustainable rate, but I never learned how to work at a sustainable pace. I burnt myself out until I had to take a break (and I'd regain during the break). If I had learned to make moderate changes at a moderate pace, I think I would have had more success.

It would be hypocritical of me to criticise my parents on that point, when it's still the way most people, including doctors still view weight loss. (Get it off as quickly as possible, and worry about keeping it off later).

Weight maintenance has to be the first goal, not the last one. We still teach (indirectly) that falling short of goal weight is failure, not success. It's still common to think "I've only lost x lbs, I'll never make it to my goal, so I might as well give up." We encourage the all-or-nothing thinking by seeing partial success as total failure.

Literally, I think if we taught that one pound lost is an acheivement worth celebrating. Maintaining that one pound is an achievement worth celebrating.

Instead we celebrate the losses only, not the maintenance (at least not until all the weight is lost. Until you reach the "end" you're only succeeding so long as you're moving forward).

I think if kids (and adults for that matter) saw maintenance of even one pound as an achievement, we'd see so much more success. Instead when someone (adult or kid) experiences a sustained weight loss "stall" they tend to see it as absolute failure and so they give up, because "it's not working," or "I can't do it."

Those messages are so ingrained that adults believe it, how can we fault kids for believing what they've been taught (just by watching adults in their lives and on tv).

It's easy to blame the parents, but it's not nearly that simple. As an adult, it's easy to blame myself, but it's not that simple either.

I didn't start experiencing true success until I learned some things that I had no way to know (in fact, the common wisdom was in direct opposition).

I think intervention has to start much earlier, and it has to be more open-minded. People are fond of saying that weight loss isn't rocket science -No! It's a whole lot more complicated, because our biology and our culture is working against us.

That doesn't mean weight loss isn't possible, but it has to be given much more respect, and it has to be focused on long-term solutions, not quick fixes with "we'll worry about the long-term later."
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Last edited by kaplods; 04-24-2011 at 03:46 AM.
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Old 04-23-2011, 10:20 PM   #4
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Wow, that's a big issue. I have 2 kids. I know things have changed drastically since I was their age.

- Fast food; I was excited if I ever got to get McDonalds. That was a huge treat. Now, they just expect that we'll go every weekend, or more.

- TV; I didn't have cable TV, internet or video games. They have them all. Getting them outside is a huge struggle.

- Outside; I lived in a neighborhood where kids where around and I had places I could play safely. They don't. We live on a busy street and there aren't school friends within walking distance.

- Family income; Times are hard. Arenít they always, lol. But, I know we shop for convenience foods sometimes (often!). When time is short we do what we do. Easy packaging, quick fix and individual servings are helpful for parents now, but not always nutritionally sound.

I don't know the answer to the problem, but I know what some of the problems are. Fortunately, my kids are doing okay health-wise, but I have been so aware of this issue and I can see how easily it can get out of hand. Life seems to be all about technology and convenience now. It's a huge challenge to raise healthy kids. I think some European countries might have a better model for us to follow.
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Old 04-24-2011, 12:08 AM   #5
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As a parent of 2 girls (14 and 12) I am noticing a lot of things different about their attitudes and life compared to my childhood

as a child we had to fight for food (i had 5 siblings) and food was just enough to sustain us due to money, the fact my parents ran a farm and rarely went into town to buy extra food, we made do.. etc , now with my children, they have access to food constantly and they never go hungry. (I make sure its healthy at home and junk is a treat not a regular thing here), but there is always something they can grab to eat.

advertising! though my kids eat healthy (and are a healthy weight) they are very heavily programmed by what is advertised on TV! Now they have no access to it (I don't buy it) but when they are older and independant I do wonder what will happen with them. I can ask my children now what they want for dinner, no holds bared and they will say either mc donalds, kfc, pizza hut.. etc.. and it has nothing to do with the food itself it is the trend of the food "its cool" as its always advertised, the in thing.

Serving sizes have changed, even the size of our plates, glasses and bowls are significantly bigger than those of my childhood! A glass of something used to be 250ml, a glass now is about 300-375ml!

Cheaper meals the bigger you go! this is a new thing in the last decade or two! upsize! in australia there currently is a new trend for multiple buy items in our grocery stores... Potato chips 2 for $4 or $3.49 each! tell me what money savy person would walk past the multiple deal! and this must have some impact in our obesity epidemic as well!

Then is convenience! we do live busier lives, kids are more likely to have out of school activities and parents tend to both work, so its often easier to GRAB quick food! (to stop this I cook ahead and freeze meals)

I do not allow my kids to ride their bikes out and about! security, fear of their safetey..etc.. maybe we are wrapping our kids in too much cotton wool (I often wonder over that, but then will see some child missing and murdered and think OMG, and hold my kids closer to me), From the age of 11 I had free roam (had to be back before dark was my curfew) I used to ride that damn bike for hours! My kids don't have that excercise, instead they tend to stay indoors watching a dvd.

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Old 04-24-2011, 05:23 AM   #6
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I was a thin kids, but as soon as puberty started I gained a little on the thighs and bottom.
So I've been chubby ever since. I gained a little more as an adult.
But I was an active person all my life, ballet kayaking hiking, I did that stuff almost daily. We ate fast food like thrice a year and I was forced to eat some veggies by my parents even though I hated the stuff.
I am and have been always healthy and strong, just not optically perfect. So I don't think it is my parents fault that I am a chubby person and not a model.
They raised me to be healthy and taught me what I should eat.
I simply had an unhealthy relationship with food in general, but it was born together with my free will at teenage.
Bottomline, it isn't always parents and enviroment. A teenager can simply choose wrong. Blaiming others doesn't help me get thinner, fixing myself does.

If it is of course about super obese kids beneath 12 years old I think they should be having the same treatment like kids that have diabetes or something. Constant medical observation and treatment.
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Old 04-24-2011, 10:13 AM   #7
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kaplods, thank you so much for you post! It was really helpful to me
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Old 04-24-2011, 05:44 PM   #8
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Unlike many people here on 3FC, I never had a weight issue until college (too much restaurants) and never had any thoughts/relationship with food as a child/teen. In fact, as a teen, I never understood why ANYONE would have any sort of problem with food - to me, food was just fuel, and that is how I was raised. No obsession with 'healthy' food, no obsession with 'unhealthy' food, it was just a small serving of pasta for dinner, no dessert, an apple for a snack, and once every few weeks, pizza.

Never discussed, never a problem. And I think that's why a lot of people have weight issues as children - making food into anything except FOOD. Making it a social thing (ie. grandma makes desserts every night), making it an emotional thing (ie. mom always complains she's fat in front of her children), etc.

There are of course soooo many reasons, but for me, that was how I had a good relationship when I was younger, until about 20.

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Old 04-24-2011, 06:17 PM   #9
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I am not a parent...but I have nieces.
My sister is very obese. I am not sure her weight, BMI or health stats, but she is probably morbidly obese. she eats just for the fun of eating. She thinks it is great that she can eat 2 or more pounds of ice cream, or a pie in one sitting...it is funny to her. Her husband is much the same I think...he has had his weight problems as he is diabetic. When faced with having to inject insulin, he DID lose weight but gained it back and did the injection thing.
Well, add children into this mix...and they are probably overweight/obese
I have seen them eat just like their parents. One time I was there at dinner (didn't eat their food) but she served them hot dogs, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. I think each girl started out with 2 hot dogs, some mashed potatoes and the sauerkraut...ok.
But then the oldest one wants seconds. She urges me to get her more and my sister asks me to as she is busy.
I think she has already eaten enough. I give her a spoonfull more of mashed potatoes/sauerkraut and 1 more hot dog. Little girl is MAD to say the least! Well, she eats this up and then finally grandfather steps in and gives them another big serving of everything-he claims he was just following orders.
So, oldest girl ate a total of: 5 hotdogs, 2-3 heaps of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut
And they eat like this daily!!!!
And little exercise...I once took the youngest to the park to play and really played with her. Being small myself, I trusted that the equipment would hold me and I played on everything except for the tube slide (wasn't trusting that my height and size wouldn't get me stuck...)
she told me that he mom never would have done all of that with her...or took her walking at the park ect.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:14 AM   #10
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Like you, I am astounded at our childhood obesity rate. I have 4 children and teach physical education (substitute) as well as train adults in a gym. I also have 2 siblings and 2 cousins.

Short answer to your Q on "why": upbringing and genetics.

Long answer: My mom and dad were twigs when they got married. Slowly, as they gained financial comfort, they ballooned. My mom all over, my dad only in the belly. My bro and I got the "twig" look, genetically. My sister is "normal". All 3 of us were and are active. Me more than they. My bro has never had a weight problem and while my sister would never be called "fat", she is never happy with her weight and yo yo's, often blaming outside reasons. However, when she spends a week with me, eating my portions, she always loses weight.

My cousins have always been obese. I remember having family parties and noticing the large amount of food they would consume. They were allowed to do so, I think because they were of divorced parents and my aunt felt badly about what they were going thru and just let them go eat and gain comfort from it.

My children are 14 y.o girl - fit and active but not a twig.
13 y.o. boy - twig.
11 y.o. boy - twig.
9 y.o. boy - chubby.

They watch me exercize. The participate with me. They are eager to start weight training but the little ones are too young and sport schedules prevent regular training in my older two. So why is the youngest one chubby? He eats! He sneaks snacks to the point where I just stopped buying the snacks yet he will then over eat his healthy meals.

The more I educate myself on the causes of obesity, the clearer the already obvious gets - people eat way too much cruddy food.
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Old 04-25-2011, 10:25 AM   #11
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I agree with most of what everyone said. Way too much junk food, sugar, not enough activity, constant commercial bombardment. I think a lot depends on parents, but parents are often in a difficult position, with not enough time, money, energy, to make the right decisions all the time.

I have an 8 yo boy, and I worry. He's not overweight, but he's got bad eating habits and I worry it will become a problem in the future. We he was little, he had no interest in solid food for the longest time. When he did start eating, it was in snacks, and that's still his preferred eating habit. He won't eat much at mealtime but he snacks often. I try to limit the junk in the house, but I allow some in, and it quickly disappears. My husband also likes snacking and does not have weight problem, so it's especially hard for me to change this pattern.

My son's best friend is overweight, 2-3 inches shorter and 10 lbs heavier than my boy, and it's no surprise. They eat lots processed, fat and sugar laden food. The mom of this family is now my son's babysitter, and in almost every way, it's the perfect situation, but I do worry about the way he eats there.

This is totally an aside, but my worry about this issue takes me to places that I don't like. I've been focusing on my own weight loss journey, and for some reason I decide to check my son's BMI. It's 18.3, which is in the 83rd percentile for his age. Anything above the 85th percentile is considered overweight, so he's in the very upper range of what's considered acceptable.

So now I'm all worried. He doesn't look at all fat to me. He looks solid. You can see his muscles in his legs and back. But I'm worried that I'm deluding myself. Everyone thinks their kid is perfect, right? But really, I just can't see that my kid is fat.

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