Cutting Obesity at the Stem
It's no secret: Obesity is a major issue here in America. It is estimated that more two-thirds of adults in this country are overweight and more than one in three qualify as obese.
The needle is moving in the right direction as people become more aware and accountable with their health, but in the long run, the best way to fundamentally change the obesity epidemic is to attack it at its roots.
That means putting our children on the right path and teaching them good habits at a young age.
A new study tracking 4,000 kids in three major U.S. metropolitan areas found that 83 percent of obese 10th graders had also been obese in the fifth grade.
Only 12 percent of children who were obese at age 11 were able to transition to a normal weight over the next five years.
"Parents sometimes think that it's just baby fat and their kids will outgrow it, but we found a lot more constancy [of extra weight over time] than we anticipated," said study author Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of general pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital.
"Certainly, once you've gained weight and become obese or overweight, it's harder to change the habits influencing that," he added. "But just because kids are gaining weight as they get older doesn't mean they can't lose weight -- they definitely can."
To be fair, in some cases this outcome is extremely difficult to avoid. Genetics are a major factor contributing to obesity and can heavily stack the deck against certain individuals. Self-esteem problems stemming from being overweight can only magnify the challenges these kids face.
But parents need to be more focused than ever on promoting healthy habits for children. Teach them the value of being active on a regular basis. Guide them to sports and exercises that they enjoy, and can stick with as they grow up. Limit the sweets, soda and sugar. Help them identify natural foods that they actually like to eat.
No 10-year-old should be thinking about counting calories, but the habits we develop in our youth tend to endure over time. Parents, teachers and guardians have a responsibility to set the right example.