When it comes to body image, causes of childhood obesity consist of much more than the icing on the cake. Hardly a week passes when we don’t hear about the epidemic of obesity among Americans. About 1/3 of adults are obese, and 17% of children and adolescents are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The stat that chips my teeth, however, is this:
Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children has almost tripled. That is frightening.
Besides eating away at a positive body image, obesity can contribute to:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- certain types of cancer
Those four conditions are some of the leading causes of death.
Childhood obesity has received much discussion. Top reasons for the problem include sedentary lifestyle which replaces physical play with technology play. Kids are stuck to their computers, phones, and televisions like chocolate chips
Not that technology is bad, but it’s time to consider limiting tech time and adding physical play.
Another entree in the smorgasbord of childhood obesity is a diet loaded with fat, sugar and white flour. Fast food and easily prepared foods are usually are high in calories, fat grams, bad cholesterol, and sugar. Our fast-paced society leads to children and adults grabbing whatever is easiest to eat. Drive-through food has become a main staple in the American diet. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent the movie Supersize Me and you’ll understand what most fast-food food does to health. (Thankfully, we now have wonderful alternatives at fast food restaurants which are more nutritious and lower in fat and sugar.)
But the one factor of childhood obesity that few people are talking about is…..(drumroll, please): Story. If you draw a timeline of a child’s life, what are the significant events that caused some degree of pain?Sometimes it’s moving. Other times it’s the separation or divorce of parents. (No, I’m not saying that divorce causes obesity, but I am saying that bumps along the road of life can cause people to self-medicate with food and other substances.) It could even be losing a pet. If you look at your own story, you’ll probably see that if you have body image/food issues, they started or took deeper roots during the bumps along your life story.
We must address the obvious issues of childhood obesity such as exercise and food choices. However, if we don’t address the pain in our children’s stories, we will likely miss a main course of the weight gain equation. Good counseling can help. Children can work through the pain in their stories and stop using food as their drug of choice. I have seen many clients lose weight they needed to lose by working on the pain in their stories. (I don’t work with children, but this principle applies to all ages.)
So there you have it…a recipe for improving the problem of childhood obesity. It’s definitely not quick or easy, but certainly well worth the efforts. And the garnish on top is an improved body image.
Photo by Chelsea Panos