Obesity in Children
Childhood obesity has become epidemic in America, and has become a mental health problem in addition to a physical problem. It is a problem that has drawn the attention of concerned parents, but also experts, educators, and even legislators (Anderson and Butcher, 2006, p. 19). There are many reasons for childhood obesity, not the least of which the many in which the world has changed, and the reasons that children are not getting the same kind of exercise today as they did when children were growing up fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, however, experts predicted that life style choices would see world with less healthy male adults who suffered obesity (Gard and Wright, 2004, p. 86). That prediction, appearing in Playboy Magazine, focused on men, while its failure to mention women suggested that women could continue to look just as they looked in Playboy at the time of the article (p. 86). Not only did it fail to mention women, but, ironically, just as the article’s predictions about men would come to reality, the source of the article, Playboy Magazine, would come to have a significant role in shaping the world’s image of women, which would lead to a whole new area of self-image and mental health problems for women. Not to mention to that young girls, too, shared the same circumstances and problems that brought about obesity in young boys (Anderson and Butcher, p. 19).
Fifty years ago, a generation of baby boomers in a post World War II era of suburban expansion found their selves being raised in new neighborhoods in communities designed to raise children. There was perhaps a greater sense of trust, and certainly fewer instances of child abductions, and fewer known child predators than there seem to be today. Or so parents then believed.
Adults who grew up during that time in those neighborhoods will readily mention they freedom they experienced in their communities where they grew up. That their communities were safer places than they are today; even though we are now beginning to learn that children in those communities were perhaps not any safer than children are today, and that the same kinds of predators and threats exist. Only today parents are more aware of those dangers, and children have less freedom to roam their communities without their parents.
Give, too, the advent of what many experts suggest is a highly addictive lifestyle of young kids involving video games and television. High technology as a problem contributing to childhood obesity is consistent with expert research indicating that, in America, childhood obesity became a problem beginning in 1980, and continuing through the 1990s (Anderson and Butcher, p. 19). Since the late 1990s, however, parents have become more environmentally aware of lifestyle and nutritional sources that give to childhood obesity (Anderson and Butcher, p. 19).
The effort to confront childhood obesity has given rise to an industry of nutritional and physical activity products aimed at preventing and reducing the condition of childhood obesity. However, some experts contend that the reality is that American children today no more obese than they were fifty years ago, and, in fact, that Americans in general are.”.. are not much less active, if at all, than our distant ancestors or our recent ancestors as demonstrated by existing forager communities, or our foraging cousin primates (Panter-Brick 2003) (Gard and Wright, p. 86).”
In fact, social researchers Michael Gard and Jan Wright (2004) point to studies that show:
today’s children, in both developing and industrialized countries, are taller and heavier than in the past, in spite of relatively stable or falling energy intakes among children from industrialized countries. Their fat intakes are falling and the percentage of total energy derived from protein is rising. Lower energy intakes are apparent even among young children and seem to be more pronounced in girls than in boys (Rolland-Cachera and Bellisle 2002:74) (Gard and Wright, p. 115).”
While there is evidence that is compelling in both research camps, the result is that parents are, today, taking a more concerted role in their children’s nutritional needs and paying closer attention to the ways in which their children spend their leisure time. Whether or not childhood obesity is the urgent problem that some experts suggest it is, we know that childhood obesity gives rise to problems of self-image, self-worth, and, especially in today’s fashion conscience, physically fit world this can be disastrous to a child’s mental health. Today we see many young girls and even boys suffering weight related neuroses, like anorexia and bulimia. Both these conditions can be thwarted with early intervention, when parents take a disciplined interest in and proactive approach to family nutrition (Lindsay, Sussner, Kim, and Gortmaker, 2006, p. 169).
Being proactive in physical fitness and nutrition leads to parenting approaches that cause parents to be diligent in other areas of their children’s lives, such as what they watch on television, the kind of music they listen to, the hours they spend playing interactive video games, and the ways in which their children interact with their peers and the roles they take in their community activities. Whether one accepts the research that says childhood obesity is epidemic, or, instead, chooses to believe it is not a problem, that researchers and advertisers would have us believe it is; the ways in which the problems associated with it and the solutions have effectively redirected parenting in healthier and more positive ways.
Anderson, P.M., & Butcher, K.F. (2006). Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes. The Future of Children, 16(1), 19+. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5014370999 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108854352
Gard, M., & Wright, J. (2004). The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality, and Ideology. New York: Routledge. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108854354 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5014371031
Lindsay, a.C., Sussner, K.M., Kim, J., & Gortmaker, S. (2006). The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity. The Future of Children, 16(1), 169+. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5014371031 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108854352
Ross, B. (2004). 5 Fat or Fiction. In the Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality, and Ideology (pp. 86-106). New York: Routledge. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108854445
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