The Scary Truth About Childhood Obesity

Obesity. To me, this word is NOT about fat or a person’s outward appearance. As children, we are taught that what is on the inside is what counts, and this is especially true when it comes to this topic. Obesity to me is actually about what is ON THE INSIDE, meaning what silent disease processes (ex. hardening arteries, fat accumulation around the vital organs) are taking place that without intervention will evolve into full-blown diseases (ex. heart attacks from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease) and endanger one’s health, quality of life and existence.

[box type=”important”]If you are a parent (or even if just thinking about becoming a parent at some point), this is need-to-know information, as having just ONE parent that is obese or overweight significantly raises a child’s risk of a lifetime of obesity. If you think you or your child is overweight or obese, please make an appointment with your family physician to start the move toward health. Your MD can equip you with suggestions for a good diet, adequate exercise and the necessary components you need to lose the excess weight and achieve greater health. No one needs to lose a family member, friend or his or her own life (or quality of life) from obesity or a secondary disease or condition that is PREVENTABLE.[/box]

Childhood Obesity

  • Fact: In the US alone, approximately 9 million kids over the age of 6 are obese.
  • Fact: The estimated annual cost to society is $100 billion, which includes treatment for diseases and preventable conditions caused by obesity.
  • Fact: We are seeing very real and medically complex diseases in kids that were only previously seen in adults, such as sleep apnea, atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries – beginning of heart disease as early as age 6) and type 2 diabetes.
  • Fact: All complications and diseases secondary to obesity, as well as obesity itself, have a profound impact on all aspects of a child’s quality of life and health. Most all complications are reversible if a family decides to take action.

Here are just a few of the complications that childhood obesity brings along with it:

[box type=”note”]Most shocking is the prediction that this generation of kids could be the first to lose 5 years off of the average lifespan due to obesity and obesity-related diseases. Not only is obesity a problem, overweight also causes health problems as well. Hopefully, you can now see why this is such a huge (no pun intended) societal issue.[/box]

Now let’s talk about some fun winter ways to get in some family time and get moving!!

…Let’s take a trip down memory lane – think back to your childhood days and what you did after school…if you were anything like me or the kids in my neighborhood, regardless of the cold weather, we were outside, bundled up and having a great time! It may not have been the swimming, sprinkler or tree climbing weather, however, there were MANY other things to do like playing tag, riding bikes, jumping on trampolines, playing hide and seek, building snowmen and forts when the snow fell, etc.

Fast forward to today – the majority of kids after-school activities tend to center around technology. Computers, texting, messaging on Facebook, talking on the cell phone, playing video games, using the iPad, etc. have taken over the once-active childhood existence. Most involve sitting or even lying on the couch. Unless your child is majorly involved in sports activities, they are most likely NOT getting enough exercise.

Also, there is a growing concern that kids are missing out on a vital component of sensory exploration and health through a lack of outdoor exposure. I understand that there is a also an increased concern about kids being outdoors alone, but if they are able to be outdoors with supervision, this is so important to well-rounded development and occupational exploration.

Here are some great ways to bundle up, get outside and move. Some involve fitness, some involve family time, some involve both – but all can be perfect ways to make family memories and facilitate bonding. Not all of these will work for everyone, but find one or two to add to your winter routine and your kids will thank you later.

  • Stepping outdoors to take a walk during the sunrise or sunset
  • Skiing
  • Ice skating at your local rink
  • Cutting your own Christmas tree
  • Organizing an informal winter talent show in your neighborhood
  • Take an after dinner walk and look for leaves and berries to glue to homemade Christmas cards
  • Technology can be a good things – research the birds in your area and go on a nature walk through the neighbor to see if you can spot any
  • Go Christmas caroling
  • Walk through a festival of lights
  • Take family walks after family dinners (family dinner time has been shown to prevent obesity and has many other advantages that translate into better parent-child relationships during the teenage years)
  • Build a snowman
  • Play freeze tag or other games that involve running (running = warmth!!) in the park or in your yard
  • Find a place where you can make a campfire and tell stories about the outdoor activities you loved when you were a kid
  • Combine the last two – find a park where you can play games and build a fire
  • Teach your kids to draw hopscotch on the sidewalk with chalk and have a snowman/tree/holiday drawing contest
  • Go out to look at the winter clouds and (with younger kids) try blowing puffs in the air that resemble the clouds
  • Get a low-fat hot chocolate and walk around a safe part of your downtown area to look at the lights and trees
  • Go outside and have a contest to see who can get warm the fastest. Everyone pick your own exercise: jumping jacks, running, skipping, etc and GO!

[box]Hopefully these ideas will get you and your kids moving this winter and help to create some fun memories for your family. Stay safe and healthy this holiday season! Best wishes to all! For more health promotion and disease prevention ideas, come visit me at the Obesity Awareness Project at[/box]


Lauren Strnad, MS, OTR/L

Lauren Strnad, MS, OTR/L is a registered Occupational Therapist and blogger at Obesity Awareness Project. She is currently finishing her doctorate and is interested in teaching/education, health promotion and prevention, specifically obesity and obesity-related diseases. Blog address:

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