Childhood obesity has become more and more a problem in the recent years.Childhood obesity is when a child is overweight for their age and height. It’s not a cosmetic issue, typically it’s something that kids don’t grow out of. Obese children tend to turn into obese adults and have many medical issues that correlate with this disease. Some people believe that we are not taking this “epidemic” seriously enough. Kids will be kids they say… But the health factors that obesity lead to are nothing to take lightly.
It’s not all the kids’ fault, obviously. The world has changed a lot since we’ve been kids. Food and drink portions are bigger than they used to be. In the 1970’s, the standard sugar sweetened drink was 13.6 ounces, while today, it’s about 20 ounces. The amount of junk food has increased, and is way cheaper than most healthy foods are, and they’re typically in a convenient packaging where it’s quick and easy for kids to eat. Back in the day, children would only consume one snack a day, while now, studies have shown that some school-age children are eating up to six snacks per day. Being able to lessen the amount of snacks a day is controllable, but the world we live in with junk food being cheap and kids being exposed to more unhealthy things in commercials and at schools, is hard to control.
Idea Number One
Although school lunches have become more healthy in the last decade, that hasn’t solved all problems that go on in our schools. Some schools are starting to allow physical education classes to be electives instead of a mandatory class. For some kids, school is the only time they do anything active, and taking this away and not making it a requirement is actually doing more damage to kids and their health than some people realize.
Levels of physical activity have reduced over the the last couple of years. The CDC stated that last year, only 29% of high school students met the recommended amount of 60 minutes of exercise per day. Young kids now have developed more of a sedentary life style involving lots of TV, video games, and using social media. Children now spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media. That number is insane. Something needs to change.
A good place to start in this would be to make physical education in all levels of school, a requirement. Just a P.E. class a day would just about meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day. There is absolutely no reason to remove P.E. from the mandatory curriculum in schools. I believe P.E. is just as important of a class as any other class taught in schools. Health is so important and we as educators need to represent that and be able to show the kids that as well.
Idea Number Two
Another idea to keep kids accountable and responsible would be to keep a food log or journal. Sometime through out a day, you don’t realize how much you’re eating or drinking through out a day. The calories in little things build up and sometimes if kids are able to just see those kinds of things it makes them realize the amount they’re eating and maybe second guess some things.
Not only does it show your calorie intake, it can also show whether you are eating enough servings of each food group. It allows you to see what you’re not eating enough of and even what you’re eating too much of. Going along with this, it also helps with portion control. Sometimes it can be hard to control your portions when you’re eating out at restaurants and gas stations have huge cups to choose from for really cheap.
Keeping a food journal can really help you keep your diet in check and make sure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients you need from your diet. It will teach kids a since of responsibility in themselves, and will also teach them accountability. Seeing how much you eat in a day can be eye opening, and it could be something small like this that could make a kid change their ways and realize they aren’t eating very healthy. I think making this mandatory for a week or two in schools would be a really good idea and seeing the difference in weight and mood and other factors after the time period is done. This would mean you would have to evaluate before hand and have a baseline set for each student before you start this program.
Idea Number Three
The last thing, and I believe the most important thing, is getting the parents involved and making them aware. Ultimately, they’re who is putting most of the food in their kids’ bodies. I think most parents are aware of obesity, but most parents think their child is perfect the way they are and everything is fine, that it’s just “baby fat”. In some instances, that may be true. Some kids can be late bloomers and hold their baby fat longer than others.. But in most cases, it can be on its way to obesity, or obesity already.
I think the first thing to do would be to make parents aware of the consequences and the health aspects that correlate to obesity. Let them know that if they don’t watch their kids’ diet that big things could happen and it could affect them the rest of their lives. Obese children and teens typically lead to obese adults that have higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and abnormal glucose intolerance.
Maybe hosting an assembly, or making it a topic of discussion at any and every parent teacher conference. It’s really important and could honestly save these kids’ lives in the long run.
Childhood obesity is not something to take lightly. It can affect anyone and it’s very preventable. With developing awareness, keeping track of foods, and getting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day, it’s extremely preventable. By doing these things and informing children of this disease, it could help prevent them from having major health problems and even death in the future. As a P.E. teacher in your classroom, it is your job to make sure your students are the best equipped possible with knowledge and exercise in order to prevent childhood obesity to happen. But it’s not just in the schools hands… Parents need to be help accountable and need to be aware and informed on this topic and it’s consequences as well.
Lanie Page — HHP 340 Tests and Measurements — Fort Hays State University