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How to Reduce Obesity and Maintain Health

Health and Obesity

Health is becoming a matter of grave concern, especially the health of teenagers and adolescents, who are becoming increasingly overweight and obese. Obesity is now being regarded as an epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2000) due to the increasing occurrence of obesity among children and young adults. Studies confirm that obesity and other health problems related to health among adolescents are on the constant rise in America with fewer than five percent of adolescents being overweight in the mid-1960s (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll and Johnson, 2002) which increased to seventeen percent within four decades (Ogden et al., 2006).

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The CDC reports that about 16 to 33 percent of children and adolescents in America are overweight and obese, with fewer than fifty percent of adolescents engaging in regular physical activities. Obesity is believed to be the primary cause of chronic disease in later life due to the chronic diseases caused due to obesity.

The average hours of television viewing activities among adolescents between the ages of fourteen to eighteen years was found to be above 28 hours per week, which could have influenced the elevation in obesity among adolescents (Roberts, Foehr and Rideout, 2005). Activities like watching television and playing video games reduce physical activity among children and exposes them to advertisements about fast foods which have an unhealthy impact on the perception and desire of foods that are unhealthy and promote gain of weight, increasing the chances of obesity (Barr-Anderson et. al., 2009).

Sedentary activities like watching television and engaging in media-related activities reduce the playtime of children which in turn reduces the number of calories burnt due to physical activities. Research indicates that obesity among children and adolescents is not an issue for the United States of America but is also of grave concern globally, with high prevalence rates of teenagers and children becoming obese (Janssen et. al., 2005).

Numerous factors have impacted the occurrence of obesity conditions among the younger generations, physical activity, and a healthy diet are believed to have a positive impact on maintaining healthy body weight. However, adolescence is a difficult stage in life during which the psychological and social development of children occurs, it is, therefore, essential for parents to be included in treatment programs to treat their obese children.

This paper aims to analyze the negative implications and impact of obesity on the new generations and how obesity needs to be tackled effectively.

Obesity

Obesity is a term, commonly used to denote excess weight in individuals which is calculated according to the body mass index (BMI) depending on the age and gender of the individual. According to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) children and adolescents between the age of 2 years and 18 years, having a BMI between 85th and 95th percentile are at high risk of obesity, while those children whose BMI is equal to and more than 95th percentile are stated to be overweight (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005).

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Adolescence occurs through three important phases initiating at the age of ten years to thirteen years and is termed early adolescence followed by middle adolescence which occurs from fourteen to sixteen years and finally late adolescence which is between the ages of seventeen to twenty-one years (Neinstein, Juliani, and Shapiro, 1996). During these phases, adolescents undergo several crucial changes in their psychological and social status, for instance, they gain additional independence from their parents and begin to adopt lifestyles that are in fashion; as such, there is greater importance on body image and the ego during these phases (Regber, Berg-Kelly, and Marild, 2007).

The occurrence of obesity in adolescents has numerous negative consequences, especially concerning the psychosocial development in adolescents. Studies also indicate that an egocentric thought process is common among adolescents, which also has social implications for them since they could tend to feel that they are being observed by an “imaginary” audience who is constantly watching over them and scrutinizing their looks, behaviors, and their overall personality (Elkind, 1967). As such, when adolescents do not have positive feelings about themselves and their body image, lack of self-confidence could have negative social implications for them.

Obesity could have various consequences including psychological and social problems resulting from low self-esteem and stigmatization (Strauss, 2000). In his study, Strauss (2000) found that obese teenagers are found to have an augmented level of loneliness and sadness in addition to greater nervousness. More importantly, obese adolescents are likely to have serious negative implications concerning their health which is reported to be lower than that of healthier and fit children (Schwimmer, Burwinkle & Varni, 2003).

Studies indicate that obese children are more likely to develop several diseases related to obesity including hypertension, type-2 diabetes, diseases of the gall bladder, and osteoarthritis (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig 2002). Ebbeling, Pawlak, and Ludwig (2002) have also found that obese children and adolescents have a greater likelihood of developing musculoskeletal disorders which could initiate in childhood, with the onset of obesity. Besides the many physical and health problems which could be triggered and initiated due to obesity, the disease could result in greater problems about social and economic problems resulting from discrimination.

In their investigation of obese and non-obese adolescents, Gortmaker, Must, Perrin, Sobol, and Dietz (1993) found a strong relationship between obesity and socio-economic outcomes. The research indicates that adolescents who were obese illustrated reduced education levels and were less likely to marry. It was also reported that the household income of obese individuals was much lower than other non-obese subjects. Moreover, the self-esteem levels among obese adolescents were found to be lower than non-obese counterparts, irrespective of the socio-economic status of the participants in the study.

Considering the severe health, social and economic implications of obesity, it is essential to communicate the appropriate information and impact of the disease to parents of obese children and the children themselves (Regber, Berg-kelly, and Marild, 2007). Researchers have affirmed that an empathetic attitude is necessary when informing teenagers regarding the consequences of the disease and when enabling them to realize that their situation can be changed with appropriate effort (Regber, Berg-kelly, and Marild, 2007). Parents play a vital role in raising their children and with their parenting styles, have an important influence on the health of children, especially due to eating habits.

Studies have indicated that the diet of children should consist of three principal meals including breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to a small snack consisting of fresh fruits or a sandwich between these main meals (Regber, Berg-kelly, and Marild, 2007). Eating fruits and vegetables is also considered extremely important to reduce obesity. It is also essential for parents to reduce the inclusion of sweets like candies and aerated drinks from the menu, which should be replaced by fresh fruits and milk.

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Exercise should be encouraged among children of all ages and children should be encouraged to engage regularly in physical activities such as climbing stairs instead of using the elevator or walking and cycling to school instead of being transported in a car or bus. Commuting to school by cycling and walking is confirmed to be an ideal way of incorporating physical activity in the daily lives and routines of children and adolescents (Nelson et al., 2008).

Parents should additionally ensure that their children develop regular exercise habits which promote physical activity such as swimming, playing sports like basketball or baseball rather than being addicted to media-based activities involving videogames, television, and computers. Sedentary activities should be reduced and children must be encouraged to play outside to burn the calories and provide appropriate exercise to the body.

Schools can also contribute substantially to the reduction of obesity by promoting healthy food choices among students and offering health education to students regarding the ill effects of fast food and the benefits of physical activity and exercise. Thus the epidemic of obesity can be reduced with active support and intervention from all aspects of society including parental, familial, and social. The children, youth, and adolescents of any country are its future and their health must be in good shape and condition so that they can function as responsible healthy beings rather than ill individuals who are affected by diseases due to obesity and being overweight.

References

Barr-Anderson, Daheia J., Nicole I. Larson, Melissa C. Nelson, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, and Mary Story. “Does television viewing predict dietary intake five years later in high school students and young adults?(Research)(Report).” The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 6.7 (2009): 7.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). BMI-Body Mass Index: BMI for children and teens. Web.

Ebbeling, C., Pawlak, B., & Ludwig, D. (2002). Childhood obesity: Public health crisis, common sense and cure. Lancet, 360, 473-482.

Elkind, D. (1967). Egocentrism in adolescence. Child Development, 38(4), 1025-1034.

Gortmaker, S.L., Must, A., Perrin, J.M, Sobol, A.M., & Dietz, W.H. (1993). Social and economic consequences of overweight in adolescence and young adulthood. The New England Journal of Medicine, 329(14), 1008-1012.

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Janssen, I., Katzmarzyk, RT., Boyce, W.F., Vereecken, C., Mulvihill, C., Roberts, C., Currie, C., & Pickett, W. (2005). The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Obesity Working Group, Comparison of overweight and obesity prevalence in school aged youth from 34 countries and their relationship with physical activity and dietary patterns. Obesity Reviews, 6, 123-32.

Neinstein L.S., Juliani, M.A., & Shapiro, J. (1996). Psychosocial development in normal adolescents. In L.S. Neinstein (Ed.), Adolescent health care, A practical guide (pp. 40-45). Los Angeles: Williams & Wilkins.

Nelson, Norah M., Eimear Foley, Donal J. O’Gorman, Niall M. Moyna, and Catherine B. Woods. “Active commuting to school: How far is too far?(Research).” The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 5.1 (2008): 1.

Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL: Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. JAMA 2002, 288(14): 1728-1732.

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM: Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. JAMA 2006, 295(13): 1549-1555.

Roberts D, Foehr UG, Rideout V: Generation M: media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds. Menlo Park: Kaiser Family Foundation; 2005: 1-145.

Schwimmer, J.B., Burwinkle, T.M., & Varni, J.W. (2003). Health-related quality of life of severely obese children and adolescents. JAMA, 289, 14.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2000). Obesity: Preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO consultation, technical report series 894. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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