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Obesity Essay

Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue, with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. An attempt is made here to study the nature and causes of obesity in children. Initial focus is on the origins of obesity; how family eating patterns, environmental and lifestyle, genetic inheritance, are crucial factors. Lifestyle and eating habits play an important part in childhood obesity. The long-term effects of this social scourge are discussed, and possible solutions for prevention explored.
Firstly, it is important to gain an understanding of what obesity is. According to Wlardlow (2000), obesity is defined as a condition characterized by excess body fat. It is also defined as the condition of a person being 20 percent above average weight. Generally speaking, consumption of foods high in sugar and fats lead to obesity. Alcohol intake can also contribute to the condition, due to its high sugar content. Obesity is a serious medical disease that affects 20-25 percent of children and adolescents in Australia. It is the second leading cause of preventable death after smoking (Fitzgerald, 2000). According to research, everyone has and needs fat tissue in their bodies. When there is too much body fat, the result is obesity (World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1996). Obesity can be measured by calculating the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a mathematical calculation used to identify overweight and obesity in adults, children and adolescents.
There are many factors that contribute to obesity, including lack of adequate physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle, eating habits, environment, family habits and genetic inheritance (Vatta, 2000). The environment in which a child lives has a great effect on how healthy the child will be. A healthy environment that promotes a healthy diet is one that encourages consumption of nutritious foods in reasonable amounts, and regular physical activity. However, according to a recent survey, many students obtain so-called junk food rather easily from outlets such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Hungry Jacks, or the school tuck shop or canteen. This might indicate that advertising of high-calorie foods could promote obesity in children and adolescents. For these reasons, nutritionists feel that a healthy environment created at home, at school, and beyond, can produce success in weight-control efforts.
Adopting healthy habits for lifetime weight control includes regular physical activity and nutritious eating. It could also be argued that the lifestyle of today’s children and adolescents is too sedentary. Recent research (Anthony, 2002) shows that 60 percent of Australian children are involved in some kind of sporting group, but 95 percent spend 20 hours a week of watching television, playing Nintendo and computer games, or surfing the Internet. According to a recent survey, great numbers of students do not exercise at all, yet spend about 13 hours watching television and surfing the Internet, which does not include hours of study, and consuming junk food every day.
Poor eating habits place children at higher risk of weight gain. Eating patterns that have been related to over-consumption of high calorie foods include eating when not hungry, eating before main meals, eating while watching television, and snacking while doing homework. Psychologist John Irvine (2003) states that parents should set the example for their children. “Kids are much more likely to copy than learn from a lecture, so we have to get more active for our kids,” he said. Anthony (2002) also states that parents should encourage their children to become active, and should set a good example. This shows that what children learn about eating habits and nutrition from their parents has a direct effect on what they eat.
Some individuals have a genetic tendency to gain weight and store fat. Although not everyone with this tendency will become obese, some of those without the genetic predisposition do become obese. This is because genes determine rates of metabolism. Wardlaw, Insel and Seyler (2003) suggest that genetic background accounts for about 70 percent of weight differences between people. A child’s chance of becoming obese depends on its parents.
Obesity amongst Australian children is a serious matter that goes beyond a child putting on a few kilos. It is an issue that has many health and social consequences, which often continue into adulthood. According to Rosemary Stanton (2005), obesity increases one’s risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, cancers, pulmonary disease, bone joint disorders, and early death.
Obesity often causes psychological problems. Many are judged on their appearance rather than their personality. They also suffer from discrimination and rejection by their peers. They often have poor self-image, which leads to low self-esteem. This leads experts to reason that the greater the degree of obesity, the greater the chance of suffering physical and psychological health problems.
There is no doubt that obesity can be prevented at an early age. Physical activity and nutritional good sense offer the main methods of preventing obesity in children. Parents and schools provide the critical links to forge a foundation for sensible behaviors. Adapting a healthy lifestyle at a young age is a crucial factor, since it is difficult to change later on. This depends a great deal on the home ambient. Parents are the most important role models for children. Anthony (2002) writes “Adults have the responsibility to encourage children to become active, help them watch their diet, and set a good example. Outside the home, children spend the large part of the day at school. Therefore, schools should provide nutritional lunches sold at the tuck shop, and also promote a physical exercise program.”
From this evidence, it can be understood that obesity in children is more than a visual concern. It is a critical problem concerning children’s health and their future self-esteem. It is a serious issue, which requires early intervention on a home and community level. Obese children become obese adults.

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Obesity Essay
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Aug 17, 2009

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