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Wake-Up Call: Preventing Obesity in American Children

Posted Jul 22 2010 4:25am
Guest Post by Lindsey Desner

Tammy had been called “Thunder Thighs” since the 4th grade when it became clear to her classmates, family, relatives and herself that she was overweight.

“I realize it’s cruel, dear, but maybe now you’ll consider sticking to your diet and exercising,” said her mother on more than one occasion.

Now on her 16th birthday and in the 10th grade, Tammy wasn’t looking forward to another Valentine’s Day when cheerleaders, pageant finalists and comely teens received a plethora of cards and candy from various admirers, while Tammy would usually receive exactly what everyone expected of her … nothing. However, this Valentine’s Day, things were different for Tammy. She actually received a card and a gift from a “secret admirer.”

When Tammy excitedly read the card, it said: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Tammy! I don’t want to reveal my identity at this time, but contained in the box are treats to help you live a longer life … from Your Secret Admirer.”

Confused yet curious, Tammy opened the gift box quickly before she stared at her gift with astonishment. Instead of a box with assorted heart-shaped candy, Tammy received a box of sliced fruit and two tangerines.

Later, when Tammy sat down to a healthy dinner of broiled fish, noodles and broccoli with her parents, sister and brother, they all snickered when Tammy revealed to them what she had received from her secret admirer.

“Well, dear, look at it this way,” said her mother. “It’s a lot nicer than being called Thunder Thighs.”

***

Teens and children are frequently barraged with high-fat and/or high-sugar snacks. It is a fact that Americans indulge in nearly 160 pounds of added sugar annually. Imagine being seated in front of sixteen 10-pound sacks of sugar. This additional sugar normally comes in the shape and form of soda, donuts, candy, breakfast bars and cereals, sweetened juice and sports drinks.

Being overweight as a teen or child can be irritating, not only due to physical difficulty in keeping up with his/her classmates, but due to an emotional challenge because teens and children can be cruel by spouting harsh comments. Another adverse impact can be long-term harm to your child’s heart. We are already aware as adults of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions may lead to strokes and heart attacks.

A study in 2008 conducted at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine by Dr. Raghuveer and colleagues observed plaque build-up in the arteries of the neck of about 70 obese children from the ages of 6 to 19. With the use of an ultrasound device, the researchers found that the young subjects possessed as much neck artery plaque as discovered in middle-age adults. This medical study has definitely opened up further discussion on the treatment in high-risk children and teens with drug therapy. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that adolescents and children who display risk factors like obesity should be tested by a physician for high cholesterol.

As a mother of two, preventing obesity is a major concern of mine. After researching the way kids eat in America, this changed my whole outlook on my own children’s nutrition. Educating children and teens on what to eat is the first step. Drug therapy may be helpful to some degree, but it is clear that behavioral therapy is necessary. Thus, there needs to be additional research on methods to address obstacles to adopting a healthy lifestyle.

***

“Tomorrow, after your visit to your doctor, you and I will choose one or two health goals and keep them small and simple,” said Tammy’s mother. “I’m not doing this to make you suffer. I’m doing this because I love you.”

Tammy never found out who her secret admirer was, but the Valentine’s Day gift was certainly a wake-up call.

Lindsey Desner is a mother of two and a long-time fan of fitness and nutrition who lives in Bellmore, New York. When she is not busy being a mom, she enjoys helping others with their weight loss journeys by teaching them to follow a low glycemic diet plan and to live a more healthy life in general.
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