Why Are Kids Overweight Today?

Childhood Obesity on The Rise

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children ages 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents’ ages 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

So what has changed in the past 30 years? Who or what is to blame?

You hear a lot of people blame the food our school systems are serving. When I was in high school in the early 1990’s, we had various trucks come to our open campus at lunch time loaded with goodies! There were trucks with pizza, sandwiches, candy, snacks, and soda. We also had the option of leaving at lunch time, or walking a few blocks down the street to the local grocery store and buying whatever we wanted. The lunches that were served in the cafeteria were not as balanced as the lunches are today. Our portions were larger as well. Now a days, there is no way a truck would be allowed to drive on a campus bringing in food. We no longer live in a safe society. Also, most schools do not allow kids to wander around the streets during their lunch hour either. I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the food that our schools are serving is not the reason our kids are obese.

The next scapegoat you often hear about is that fast food is cheaper than healthy food. Guess what, fast food has been around for many decades and it has always been cheaper than healthy food. You can go to McDonalds and spend $6 on a combo today or go to Subway and spend almost $10 on a combo. 10 years ago, you could get a combo at McDonalds for $4 and a combo at Subway for around $6.50. Inflation has increased these prices throughout the years, but eating healthy has always been more expensive than eating “junk.”

So what is the real reason our kids are overweight?

What has changed in the past 30 years? Technology! Kids today spend an average of a little of 8 hours a day playing video games. If they aren’t playing video games, they are on the internet. When I was a kid, I would be outside with my friends from the moment I woke up to way after dark. One of the smallest details I remember when first going outside to play is the way the morning air smelled and the grass being wet from morning dew. Kids don’t go outside to play anymore. How can we fix this? I don’t have the answer. Everyone raises their children differently. The only advice I can offer is START EARLY! If you wait until your kid is a teenager, you are setting yourself up to fail. Try to implement healthy habits with your kids at a young age, and don’t let up.

Another thing to look at is our schools. Not the food they are serving there, but what they are not doing. Gym class is nothing like it used to be. After a few ridiculous law suits, schools have tightened up on what they let the kids do. They are afraid of a kid getting hurt and getting sued for a ridiculous amount of money.

What happens to overweight kids?

When you hear or read about childhood obesity problems, what pops in your mind about those kids? That they are lazy, picked on, eat a lot? The first thing that should pop into your mind is more kids are closer to having a life full of fighting many diseases or that those children are going to have shorter lives.

According to the CDC the immediate health effects of obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

The long-term health effects include those children are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6 One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem that is getting worse and is not going anywhere. Do you have any personal stories dealing with childhood obesity? If so, please share them by commenting below. Your comment or story could make a difference to a struggling parent or child out there.

Tim Martin is a Technology specialist, who gives us insights into the technology and software that helps us to get through our day. Technology is everywhere, an increasingly pervasive part of our lives. Tim helps us make sense of it in many ways.