The apple does not fall far with childhood obesity: Causes of obesity


In the wild jungle of life, the younger Homo sapiens must learn from their parental Homo sapiens in order to survive, just like the rest of the animal kingdom. The younger Homo sapiens learn by mimicking the actions of the parents, which can tell much more than words. These days, parents are leading a sedentary lifestyle with unhealthy food cooked from other establishments, and demonstrating a lack of exercise. It’s not just in appearance either; an unhealthy, thin parent who eats and eats without packing on a pound can still birth bad habits in a youth with a proclivity toward weight gain.

Placing the blame

The causes of obesity range from a variety of factors. The National Library of Medicine, or NLM, explains, “Obesity is caused by many things, including a person’s habits, lifestyle, and environment.” The phrase “monkey see, monkey do,” greatly applies to childhood obesity as they learn from the adults. Part one of this series covers the fact that children mimic the actions of their parents. So where is the blame of childhood obesity placed besides parenting? One answer is: on fast-food.

Much of the public grabs their proverbial pitchforks and rush to hang children’s obesity on fast-food. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researches the effects of fast-food and diets in childhood obesity. The study monitored the diet of 4,466 children ranging in age from 2 to 18. Results show almost 50 percent of the children do not consume fast-food and gain weight from their own dietary habits. Whereas, 39.5 percent of children were low-consumers of fast-food and only 10.5 percent were in the area of high-consumers.

Monkey see, monkey do: children want to be just like you

The researchers make a point of clarifying, “the effect of public health efforts targeted at fast food restaurants may also be overestimated.”  Fast-food is a part of childhood obesity and should be included in the causes of obesity, but not as the sole cause. Jokes aside, children will continue to eat as their parents do and with the food the parents provide them with.

The NLM explains, children have a strong inner regulator of being hungry versus being full and will stop eating when they are full. Yet, when a parent tells them to finish everything on the plate, “This forces them to ignore their fullness and eat everything that is served to them.” While a parent’s heart is in the right place at that moment, a child will continue to follow that habit. For the parent, teaching healthier eating habits and exercise can be a great place to start. Showing the child moderation and self-control in eating will help to benefit the child’s health in the future.

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