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I keep hearing about the rising rates
of teenage obesity. Are the news reports true? As a parent and teacher,
are there any physical or emotional problems associated with teenage
obesity that I should be aware of?
The news reports are true. Obesity rates
among teens have almost tripled over the past two decades! The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention have documented the escalating
obesity rates in our country, state by state; see: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm
The most alarming physical effect that we
see among obese teens is Type II diabetes, a condition previously seen
only among overweight adults. The emotional effects are also tragic;
overweight teens are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and
depression. Here are some suggestions for parents, teachers and teens to
stop and reverse this alarming trend:
- Create school policies that limit
sales of "junk" foods--soft drinks, snack chips and cakes,
cookies, fruit drinks, etc. Instead, offer fresh fruits, low-fat
yogurt, string cheese, lean meat sandwiches on whole grain breads,
flavored milks and bottled water--on ala cart food lines. Schools
can still make profits, but it's important not to make those profits
at the expense of students' health.
- Create time and places for youth to
enjoy physical activity. Can a class be offered before, during or
after school that offers teens an opportunity to work out together?
Plan family and class outings around physical activity.
- Watch less television, and spend less
time on the computer and with video games. These activities are
"sedentary"--they don't burn as many calories as
physically active play. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends limiting television, video and computer time to no more
than one to two hours per day. See their position statement on
television at: http://www.aap.org/policy/re0043.html
- Find physical activities you enjoy.
Not everyone is cut out for team sports. Walking, hiking, biking,
skating, aerobics, swimming, basketball, Frisbee, weight
lifting--all are activities that can be done independently or with
friends at times that are convenient with your schedule.
- Eat with your health in mind. For
example, start each day with a quick, nourishing breakfast, such as
a bowl of cereal topped with skim milk and fruit. Resist the urge to
"super-size" for just pennies more; the extra calories
aren't worth it. Instead of soft drinks, drink more water. Finally,
become more independent and learn to cook healthful meals!
For more information on healthy eating,
visit the American Dietetic Association website at: www.eatright.org
Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former
Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia