ACCORDING to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 1980 and 2002, the number of overweight adolescents tripled and the number of overweight preteens more than doubled.
Long-term increased risks associated with childhood obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer.
Childhood obesity may be related to a number of factors, including a sedentary lifestyle, advertising campaigns directed at young people, and the availability and affordability of unhealthy foods. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says:
Childhood obesity is the result of eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.
Children, adolescents, and adults would do well to take a close look at their eating habits. Without going to extremes, a few simple measures can make a difference. Consider, for example, a young man named Mark, who found that adjusting his eating habits brought enormous benefits to his health and well-being.
“At one time I was a junk-food junkie,” Mark admits. Mark was interviewed to find out how he changed.
When did your problem with food begin?
When I graduated from high school. About that time, I began eating out a lot. There were two fast-food restaurants near the place where I worked, so I ate lunch at one or the other almost every day. I found it much easier to go to a fast-food restaurant than to prepare my own lunch.
What about when you moved away from home?
My eating habits got worse. I didn’t know how to cook, and I didn’t have much money; but my favorite fast-food restaurant was just two blocks away. Eating there seemed like the easiest and cheapest option.
In addition to eating the wrong kind of food, I ate way too much food. I wasn’t satisfied with a standard fast-food meal. I ordered more French fries, a larger soft drink, and an extra hamburger—whatever I could afford—in the largest size available.
What was the turning point for you?
When I was in my early 20’s, I started thinking more seriously about my health. I was overweight. I felt sluggish all the time, and I lacked self-confidence. I knew that I needed to make changes.
How did you get your eating under control?
I took a gradual approach. First, I reduced the amount of food I ate. I would tell myself, “This isn’t my last meal; I can always eat again.” At times I literally had to walk away from the dinner table. But I felt good afterward, as if I had won a victory.
Did you have to make any drastic adjustments?
Some things I gave up completely. For example, I eliminated soft drinks and drank only water. That was difficult. I loved soft drinks, and I hated water. After I drank a glass of water, I would take a couple of sips of juice, which put some flavor on my palate. After a while, water itself became more appealing.
What did you do besides eliminating unhealthy foods?
I replaced them with better options. I started with fruits—apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and melons. I also added lean proteins to my diet, such as chicken or tuna. In time, those foods became some of my favorites.
I try to eat more vegetables and less of the rest of the main course. I find that I’m less likely to overeat at mealtime if I have healthy snacks between meals. Over time, my craving for junk food has diminished.
Did you completely give up eating out?
No, I still do go out to eat occasionally. But when I do, I control how much I eat. If the portion I’m served is too big, I ask for a take-out box. Then I put half of the meal in the box before I start eating. That way, I consume a reasonable portion instead of eating more, simply because I feel guilty about leaving food on my plate.
How have you benefited from the adjustments you have made?
I’ve lost weight, and I have more energy. I feel better about myself. Best of all, I’m happy to know that by taking care of my health, I’m honoring the God who gave me the gift of life. (Psalm 36:9) I used to think that living a healthy lifestyle would be boring. But now that I’ve started to eat right, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
The term “childhood obesity” refers to a medical condition that affects children and adolescents. Experts say that young people who are overweight have a 70 percent chance of being overweight as adults.