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Although childhood obesity is a devastating health problem there looms another on the other end of the weight spectrum- eating disorders. Eating Disorders occur when normal eating and behaviors surrounding food, weight management, and body image become extreme. Anyone; females, males, all races, people from all socioeconomic levels and all intelligence levels; can develop eating disorders. Eating disorders affect 5 to 10 percent of all students.

Factors that influence eating disorders may include emotion and personality disorders, family pressures, a genetic or biologic susceptibility, physical or sexual abuse, and a culture where there is an overabundance of food and an obsession with weight. These factors lead many youth to diet, control their appetites, lose weight, and eventually develop one of three different types of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorders. All of the disorders are extremely serious.

Anorexia nervosa is a devastating eating disorder in which those affected adopt patterns of behavior that in extreme cases, may lead to self-inflicted starvation. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include: refusal to maintain weight, intense fear of weight gain, distorted body image, loss of sexual desire or menstrual periods, extreme concern with body weight and shape. Personality traits associated with individuals with anorexia include: perfectionists, conflict avoidant, emotionally or sexually inhibited, compliant, approval seeking, excessively dependent, socially anxious, fear of spontaneity, reluctant to take risks, practice food rituals.

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binging and purging behaviors. Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa include: making excuses to go to the bathroom after meals, has had mood swings, may buy large amounts of food which suddenly disappears, has swelling around the jaw, normal weight, eating large amounts of food on spur of the moment, laxative and diuretic wrappers are found frequently in the trash, unexplained disappearance of food in the home, may avoid eating around other people. Characteristics of people who suffer from bulimia are: moody, cannot stand to be alone, demand constant attention, difficulty controlling impulsive behavior, secretive behavior.

Binge eating disorder is similar to Bulimia in that individuals eat large amounts of food in short amounts of time. However these individuals do not purge. Some symptoms include: eating large amounts of food in short periods of time, a sense of lack of control, eating much faster than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not hungry, eating alone to avoid being embarrassed about how much one is eating, feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilt after overeating.

What can parents do to prevent eating disorders?

 Educate children about the genetic basis for different body types, and the nature and ugliness of prejudice.

 Avoid over emphasizing beauty and body shape, especially for girls.

 Promote healthy behaviors such as sensible exercise and eating. Learn and discuss the dangers of weight loss diets.

 Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of moving your body and not for purging fat.

 Teach your children not make judgments on others based on their appearance.

 Encourage intuitive eating. Never limit caloric intake unless requested by a physician.

 Do whatever you can to promote the self-esteem and self-respect of your daughters, nieces and sisters in intellectual athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement.

Information adapted from Ohio State University Factsheets ED 1001-1007.

Reviewed by Susan Zies, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University Extension

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family mealPoor nutrition + inactive lifestyle = childhood obesity.  That is a very simple formula.  Every day there is a new story in the media about childhood obesity.  Obesity is running a close second to smoking as the nation’s number one preventable killer.  It is a major factor for heart disease, and increases the potential for high cholesterol, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 8 preschoolers are obese in the United States. Obese children are 5 times more likely to become obese adults and suffer lifelong physical and mental health problems.

How did we get here?  Life today is so hectic for families. Some parents are working longer hours away from home and children. Days are so filled with stress that some parents simply do not have the time or energy to apply healthy eating rules into their homes. For example, breakfast is often skipped or consists of a pop tart on the run.  Family meals are rare and have been replaced with meals on the run at fast food restaurants.  We live in a “super sized” world where we are led to believe that bigger is better.

Adding to the issue of nutrition there is also the concern of inactivity. Kids today spend too much time sitting still.  Exercise is out and video games, laptops and TV shows are in. Recess time or free time during the school day is very limited.  And sadly many of our neighborhoods are too dangerous for kids to play outside without adult supervision.

So how do we fix this? Parents are the key to changing the behaviors in their home. By changing family behavior and creating a healthy weight environment you can help your family to engage in a healthy lifestyle.  Here are some tips to help start your family on a pathway to a healthier lifestyle:

  • Set goals and start small. New habits take a while to become routines.  A simple goal might be to offer vegetables or fruits at snack time.
  • Drink water at mealtimes and as a refreshing snack.  If you are eating at a restaurant, you will save money and make a healthy choice by drinking water.
  • Recognize triggers that will tempt you to fall back into old habits.  If your child loves video games limit their screen time and encourage them to play outside.
  • Surround your family with healthy foods.  Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains available.
  • Try to  eat at home more.  Explore easy meals and try new, healthy recipes.  Check out http://go.osu.edu/healthyrecipe      for some guidelines to help you personalize your eating plans. You will  find ways to combine fresh and convenience foods to make a healthy meal in  a hurry.
  • Take the time to read labels.  There are some fruit juices and juice drinks that have as many or more grams of sugar as      soda.
  • Plan ahead for busy days.  Cook once for two or more meals.  Dust off the crock pot and make a healthy recipe. Visit this website for recipes you can make with your favorite ingredients.       http://go.osu.edu/recipefinder
  • Join your  kids as you all move more. Take a walk or bike ride around the block or play a game of tag. Physical Activity is an important key to good health.
  • Celebrate  success with rewards.  Make sure the rewards are healthy – what about a visiting the nearest playground or park to play with your family?  Fly a kite with your kids for a fun springtime activity.
  • Be flexible.  If the plan is not working, make the necessary changes to reach your goals.

All of these things are something parents can control. Parents are the key to the health and lifestyle choices of their children. Being a good role model, remaining confident in your parenting choices, and feeling competent to address the resistance of family members might require being a strong parent, but with practice it can be done. Take charge of future, not only for yourself, but your children as well. They will thank you for it later.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/ChildhoodObesity/

www.choosemyplate.gov

Writer: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA.

Reviewer:   Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

 

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