What are some solutions to childhood obesity? Obesity in children was once considered a rare and remote problem. Nobody believed that it would reach the epidemic levels we currently see today. For most of human history, obesity was treated as a sign of wealth as it indicated that one was able to afford a large amount of food.
However, in the modern world, scarcity is no longer the issue that it was in the past. We produce so much food today in America that we throw away nearly 40% of it. Clearly, there is a need to do something about the crisis that is upon us before our children succumb to it.
Generation Z, defined as those born between the years 1995 to 2009, are the latest generation to come of age. Obesity rates among this group are devastatingly high. In fact, it is believed that Generation Z will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents simply due to the effects of obesity. The reasons behind the higher obesity rates among children are currently one of the hottest areas of research to date.
If there is anything that seems to define Generation Z, it's their obsession with the internet. These kids are digital natives whose entire childhood was wrapped around the internet and smartphones. They never played outdoors and their heroes are top gamers rather than jocks. Exercise simply isn't a part of that culture and childhood obesity is growing in its wake.
Schools are making the fight against childhood obesity an important part of their plans. The majority of their focus is on trying to find ways to bring back exercise and healthy eating in our schools. In the past few years, a number of issues have made progress at the school level difficult.
However, schools are trying their best to do what they can. More schools are putting exercise and healthy options in their cafeterias, but they are fighting against a very powerful message sent by pop culture to consume sugar and fat. The battle against childhood obesity is certainly uphill.
Perhaps one of the best ways schools can ensure our children are healthier is by bringing in more sports. Many schools have cut the budget for their sports programs and no longer offer after-school physical activity. Fighting for the existence of these programs can seriously put things in the right direction. As little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can help kids shed the pounds.
Obesity was far less common in our past than it is today. Obesity rates in the 70s simply did not exceed 10% and were as low as 15% in the 1990s. A major reason behind those low rates of obesity was the lack of sugar in the American diet. Prior to the 60s, Americans consumed lots of protein heavy meat and relatively little sugar.
However, sugar companies attacked the image of dairy and meat products by suggesting that fat was the source of heart disease. This led to a shift towards sugar and sweets that led to the current crisis we see today.
The solution to the problems we see in our youth today lies in trends we've seen for years. Plates are bigger, portions are bigger, and our overall attitude towards how we should eat is simply less healthy.
To fix the problem, we need to focus trying to change how much food kids expect to eat. If we serve our kids food on smaller plates, for example, they will likely eat less as well.
Perhaps the largest source of poor diet in our young people comes from the advertisements they see. In many European countries, it's illegal to advertise anything to kids. Subsequently, these countries have not dealt with the sort of issues that have plagued American youth.
Kids aren't seeing messages telling them they need to go buy a cheeseburger or drink 32 ounces of soda. Banning fast food commercials aimed at children is the first step towards putting them on the right track away from obesity.
Solving the obesity crisis absolutely requires that we change the way that we look at the problem. Children need more exercise and they need less sugar. The idea that obesity is, in fact, genetic or simply beyond the control of the individual is a harmful one to avoid.
Today's kids don't play outside as often, but this is something we can change. Game developers are currently working on ways to bring our youth back outdoors through the use of new tech trends.
Augmented reality, in particular, is a promising solution to the childhood obesity epidemic. Essentially, augmented reality finds a way to blend the real world with a virtual world in order to create games. For example, a child may need to hunt monsters by taking pictures of them with their smartphone or may use a GPS-enabled device to find a "hidden" treasure.
Understanding youth culture and how our kids work today is absolutely essential to solving this crisis before it is too late.