She came around the corner of the frozen-food section – she was large but I wasn’t surprised at her weight since 35 percent of Americans are obese (referenced: CDC Statistics 2011), the highest country-level on record. What surprised me most was the size of her two children, one in the cart and one walking – both obviously not just overweight but obese. I’m sure what causes Mom’s obesity is primarily stress-driven, perhaps a total lack of dietary common-sense, and limited physical-exercise. With the exception of a childhood disease, I’m also positive that the cause of her children’s obesity is her and perhaps her husband. I know mom can see that her children are obese, but I believe she has no clue related to the complications of childhood obesity – so I’d thought I’d help her to understand.
Hey Mom, the complications of childhood obesity are many so let’s start with the psychosocial. Children who are obese develop a very-early sense of poor self-esteem – once they begin school they can’t side-step or avoid the reaction of children around them, which is often brutal. They are called names such as “fatty”, they are infrequently chosen as friends and most often can’t participate in physical activities – all isolating them socially. Children who are obese develop the eating habits directed/allowed by their parents and unfortunately often develop depression, a major factor in poor health. Obesity influences self-esteem – self-esteem is often the “engine of success”.
Along with psychological/psychosocial complications are the physical complications – and they are many. Obesity can often cause asthma and that could result in sleep apnea and exercise intolerance – without proper sleep, both education and the learning process suffer - that places your child even more out-front for criticism and insult. With obesity comes the risk of cardiovascular disease, to include chronic inflammation of the heart and high blood pressure, neurological damage caused by stroke, and Type-2 diabetes. These are the “obvious” physical complications of obesity – it’s often the unobvious that create the most havoc.
Our physical foundation/structure is primarily based on the skeletal and muscular structure that gives the body support and motion. When a child is obese they’re put into harm’s way by their parents’ inattention and limited education – the extreme weight weakens the bones, damages the joints, and can lead to both stress and damage to tendons, muscles, and ligaments. This often leads to physical exercise limitations based on the child’s inability to “move” their bodies with efficiency and without harmful stress. It is a simple fact Mom – if your child can’t move without exhaustion and pain – they will not move.
So as a mom or dad (or both) with an obese child what do you do? Follow these pathways: One - be aware of the real dangers of obesity, do research on the Internet, and contact your doctor to setup an appointment for the family. Two - no child plans their meals, cooks their food or preps the day to include rest and exercise – parents do that, come on, be a parent and love them enough to guide them. Three (most importantly) – be an example of health, give them pride in self – tell them you love them often, and lead them into a healthy, well-educated, and productive life. Hey - real parents care.
Thomas H. Hunkele of Troup County is a certified fitness trainer and president of Lakeside Fitness.