For most of the past three decades, we have been concerned about the rising incidence of adult obesity. However, all of a sudden there has been an explosion of childhood obesity all over the globe.The current trend is shocking and if it continues and if we do not undertake any intervention, the majority of these overweight infants and young children will likely continue to be overweight during adolescence and adulthood.
So what is the reason for this obesity epidemic in young children?No one really has an answer but most experts blame a drastic change in lifestyle, easy access to fast foods and lack of exercise. No one disagrees that childhood obesity has repercussions beyond just looking fat- the disorder can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome and leads to premature death. The healthcare costs of taking care of the complications of obesity are not minuscule.
Old Approach and ResultsSo far, the fight against childhood obesity has been an abysmal failure. Despite all the hype, the public war on obesity has had minimal impact on childhood obesity. For the most part, every single approach has been myopic, individualized and only targeted-eating habits with the eventual goal of losing weight. Not many programs have looked at why obesity has occurred so rapidly and how to curb the urge to eat. Even though many schools had good intentions, their approach to fighting childhood obesity with BMI reports cards has not had any success. In fact, this approach has triggered the other extremes of eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia with severe consequences. In the pursuit of thinness because of body shaming and peer pressure, many children and teenagers have gone on extreme diets. This has also led to body dysmorphic disorder, stigma of being considered fat, disordered eating, and even deaths as a result of extreme dieting, anorexia, bulimia and prematurely undergoing bariatric surgery. Sadly, there have been many reports of suicides as a result of weight-based bullying both at school and the workplace.
The key reasons for the ineffectiveness of past policies on weight loss have been attributed to:
- intense focus on individual-based approaches
- lack of any community programs with guidance
- no national policies and
- inappropriate focus on just body weight rather than health.