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Childhood Obesity Rates Higher in the South

By , SparkPeople Blogger
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years with rates for 6-11 year olds increasing from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008. The rates for adolescents (age 12-17) show a similar increase.

Dr. Gopal K. Singh, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Health Resources and Services Administration analyzed results of National Survey of Children's Health Data conducted in 2003 and 2007. They reported that almost 50 percent of all children nationwide are now classified as overweight (31.6 percent) or obese (16.4 percent) with the largest percentage coming from southern states, such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.

In a May 3rd report published in the online version of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the south continues to lead the pack when it comes to childhood obesity, with Mississippi ranking number one with almost 22 percent of the children classified as obese and 44.5 percent classified as overweight. The lowest rate of obesity in children is in Oregon where only 9.6 percent of the population is considered obese, whereas in Utah the number of children classified as overweight is only 23.1 percent.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that these results parallel the state obesity rates for adults.

Last week I wrote a blog regarding Santa Clara county officials banning toys in kid’s meals until restaurants start offering healthier options. While taking away a toy may not be the answer to this health crisis, something has to be done to reverse the trend so that we can avert a nationwide health catastrophe.

Parents are the biggest role model for their children but unfortunately we are coming up short in the healthy lifestyle department. We know that changing behaviors is a big step in moving these kids away from a sedentary lifestyle to one of healthier living. This includes eating more meals at home, pulling kids away from the T.V. and computer, and making exercise fun.

I’m beginning to wonder if we, as parents, have become apathetic to studies like these or if there is just a lack of education on our part when it comes to changing directions. Whatever the case may be, if we don’t change directions, we are certainly going to lose a generation well before their time.

When you read studies such as the one listed above, do you think they help change the direction our kids are heading in? What are some actions you, as a parent, are taking to help your kids embrace positive healthy lifestyles? Do you think the trend of obesity will be reversed?

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Studies are simply what they are, STUDIES! They do not bring about change. Biggest reason, most Americans don't prescribe to healthy magazines and other scientific journals. I am a teacher and I do not prescribe to any educational magazines for my trade. What we need to do is educate.

I fully blame parents and as we become older our selves for how us Americans are. As a teacher I would love my parents to be more involved but that is not the case for those parents who are not at home because they are working or those whose parents just ain't around. This then falls on our students. I am a science teacher and the Human Body is one of my topics. I know I could go more in depth than I do but I really try to talk to the kids about why it is important to eat healthy and since most of them don't, to make small changes over time. I use myself as an example to my students of how I have been most of my life and through small changes have begin to take back control of my weight and goal of becoming healthy.

I think the only way for the obesity trend to end is that Americans embrace eating healthy portion food and exercise. We all need to come back to the dinner table. We all need voice our opinions to get restaurants (fast or sit down) to changes our ways, and we flat out just need to educate! And not just kids but parents as well! Report
okay, this is my second comment after reading some of the others....
I wish as a whole, our society would realize that compassion is NOT making excuses for ourselves and each other. Yes, some of us brush our teeth ALL the time and get more cavities than our spouse who seldom brushes. That spouse gets 5 stars on thier dental report card. (We all need to keep brushing anyway!) Yet I want to point out that MOST all of us are NOT genetically built to be thin if we conform to the eating standards of our overweight societies. I am not, and neither are most of the family and friends i love. I can't judge the people i don't know fat or skinny. It's hard...because the thoughts of pity can start to creep in and WISH i had it so easy. but how do we know that this person has not just overcome major obstacles just living in this fat/salt/sugar consuming society and decided to work hard for their health? It's pretty nice that we have an automatic reward of looking and feeling better when we are healthier.

Nobody is doing me or any of my loved ones a favor by comparing animals or people to each other. Compassion can be shown in other tactful honesty, respect for what's in our insides, and focus on the things we CAN accomplish and work hard at. Push me to do and be better. Love me for who i am no matter what i look like....but DON'T clump me (and all these other people who need to work hard and have determination) with the unfortunate or medically disabled. This is also doing a disservice to those who really do have a reason that they truly can not lose the weight either temporarily or long term. Some people are getting to this point BECAUSE of their weight causing so much strain on their bodies.

There are a few people i've known to eat unhealthy and don't gain a pound...can you picture thier arteries? Knowing them does NOT discourage me. I can't let these things discourage me. It is SO frustrating when this discourages the people i love. it is so frustrating to me that this attitude is in our society....when my loved ones (including myself) need a little healthy judging in this world when it comes to health. I'm GLAD it's looked down upon to smoke around kids or pregnant for instance.

There will always be judging. I am tired of unhealthy judging being accepted, while the healthy judging is shunned because people are fighting to remain complacent and live without a healthy dose of reality. The kind of judging i DON'T like is when a mother points at another woman's child and calls them "stupid", or when someone is made fun of for a TRUE handicap, or when someone is judged because of thier nose. It IS hard to feel judged because of my weight.....and i would HATE it if i truly had a medical reason. Especially since now i would be clumped together with the majority of Americans being overweight and obese.

The large percentage of adults and children in our country, with our lifestyle choices are NOT like this because this is how we were made. We were not made to eat junk. We were made to eat whole foods and exercise. We all need to keep ourselves and our loved ones in check on exactly what moderation is. "Moderation" is a hard term because it is not concrete....and it can be used frivously if we aren't constantly checking ourselves and each other. Do we really love each other, or are we willing to let the ones we love go down? What about our great Country that our forefathers fought and died for? That our loved ones continue to bravely fight for? What does freedom REALLY mean?

I think right now is a good time to count all of my blessings of what my body can do and keep working on it. When i see people who struggle yet keep trying it is different than people who just give up, or continue to make excuses over and over. I wish our society didn't tolerate this attitude. It has become the "norm" here in our great country.

The more people who work on this together, the better. I think the government, parents, and individuals all have an influence in this. And by judging, i do not think we should judge individuals....just attitudes if they arise. I think Jamie's food revolution is AWESOME! I think we need to change the way people think, while accepting each other along the journey. These kids need help. Report
**sighing** I was born and brought up in the South in the US, and then I lived in the UK for some years so I was fortunate enough to taste both of the world. I noticed that my British family by marriage and my American family by birth were very similar when it came to eating habits yet my British husband and his dad were almost maybe 10 pounds overweight. My British mother in law was overweight like me. She and I had similar eating habits and same likes for food.
I have *fat* genes that were passed on to me by my biological mom and my paternal granddaddy. I don't care what people say, but those who are unlucky to have fat genes find it harder to lose weight. I have been struggling with my weight all my life simply because of that plus the eating society in the South.
Now that I am older I have cut down on sugar and bread and I have become a vegetarian full time. I still have a hard time trying to eliminate the fried food as it is part of my Southern culture. Chocolate is my mistress or should I say forbidden lover.

OMG KARATE KID! Your story is similar to mine except I lived in the country, worked in the garden, played football with the boys, softball at recess, walked a mile to school and even walked it to go home for lunch. How can you explain that I was always "chubby" and my next older sister who was a "bookworm" and hated exercise was so skinny she cried when they weighed her in school because she was always under weight. Exercise was not the key. We ate the same foods, lots of vegetables, and we called her "the garbage can" because she would eat whatever was left.
Then I raised three children and only my daughter had the weight problem. The boys could eat whatever they wanted.
I must admit that today's kids watch too much TV and use all of their electronic devices and eat too much "fast food". Sometimes we can't even let them walk home from the bus stop because some creep may be lurking around the corner. Parents are not always to blame for childhood obesity, but they do need to make a concerted effort to see that the children do get the proper exercise. Schools should be adding more physical fitness time, not cutting back. I have always said schools should teach tennis, golf and swimming as they are lifelong sports. Report
When I grew up I walked to school and played outside every day. We lived on the 4th floor (4th floor European style, so 5th floor for North Americans) without an elevator. We didn't even have a TV until I was 8 and then I was allowed 1h a week. We had a car but it wasn't meant to ferry me around to my activities - I walked or took the bus. There was no "fast food" but there were some street foods, which were a rare treat, as was eating out. I was still a fat kid.

Of course this is an individual experience which doesn't explain the much larger problem we're facing now, but it always makes me think when I hear people say "If only kids would play outside - walk to school - take the stairs etc." Those are all good things, but it's not a cure-all. How about the way food is being produced and marketed these days? The fast food and junk food advertising that targets kids? The creeping portion sizes? Even the stress a lot of kids are under?

I wish there were a simple answer but it's a complex problem we all need to tackle, not just individual families.
I can't recall how far back in years, but the Educational System deemed sports and phys ed an expense to their budget and made cut backs. I don't know how far each school division made those cut backs but it now seems to me that we are all reaping from this poor choice. Report
I moved from NJ to southern Georgia ten years ago. Here it is very much a societal phenom. As a person who has decided to keep the Old Testament "clean and unclean" it is sometimes very difficult to eat without finding some sort of pork fat in my meal, especially my vegatables.
Now, with TV, computors and video games, children eat high calorie meals and not enough outdoor activities.
Since I work in the health care industry, I see the insurance companies only cover one "1" visit to the nutritionist.
Yes, parents are partly to blame, however, the Southern society and the Insurance industry are also contributing factors. Report
This is a really important blog. Kids ARE the future and they need their health. I hope that our nation can get a handle on this problem. Report
Those statistics are astounding. My step-daughter is definitely overweight at the age of 10. She wants to do SparkPeople too, but isn't old enough. We teach her about how many servings of each food group she should have, how much is a serving, and how to measure her food. She is making healthier food choices sometimes, but not always. It's a step in the right direction.

As far as the toys in the happy meal idea, fast food is not the only problem for our nation's youth. Walk through their school cafeterias. I work in the schools and I know what JUNK is being served to the kids in their schools. Are there healthy options? Of course there are. But, they aren't the first option listed on the menus or seen in the cafeteria line. Our government makes laws about everything under the sun, some right and many not. Why can't someone take the initiative to make it prohibited for the schools to serve processed, unhealthy food choices to our nation's youth...especially after seeing the statistics increase with such magnitude! Report
I agree that something needs to be done about this growing problem--it is not about discriminating against a group of kids. This problem is everywhere and it belongs to everyone. It is not just in the home, or the schools, or the foodstamp program, the poor, the wealthy. Kids can eat healthy and still have weight problems--the activity level needs to increase--calorie in, calorie out. Video games are a child's worst enemy, as well as the sweets and processed foods that are consumed on a daily basis. Getting them outside running around and seeing what fun really is will help them lose any extra weight, they will sleep better and burn out the carbon left over that is clogging up their engines. It is up to the adults to see that these things do happen regardless if your a single income family or a double income family. Convenience is easy, but making things work to benefit kids is hard. Ok, I will shut up now. Report
I agree with comment 50. I think so many of these stories about “obesity” are just an excuse for people to discriminate against those that don’t fit society’s standard of what one should look like. Report
I am not a parent yet but knowing that by God's grace I will be one, I am taking every step to make sure healthy living is my habit so when I do have children, it will be normal for them to eat well and have fun being active. Report
I think my Dad said it well. We were talking on weight one day at the farm. We looked out at the pasture. His horse - tall, right weight, solid muscle. My mum's and my shared horse - short, chunky, overweight, muscular. Both raised the same, eat off the same pasture and work out similar. Pip (my horse) she was nicknamed "bear horse" because she could sniff out a bear miles away and she had spunk against bears. Stryker (dad's horse) was a wimp when it came to bears and had no real instinct for bears. Yet looking at them, you'd swear it was the other way as how could this short little Hackney pony cross with horse ever intimidate a bear? Then we talked on how in the winter, Stryker has to be fed extra hay and grain or he loses too much weight. On the other hand Pip is calorie restricted as she gains simply by sniffing the hay (we swear) and even if there isn't any grass under that snow, she seems to find it. When she gained her hooves were affected and she experienced difficulty with walking. (genetic issue) My dad said "you know people are like horses, you can have 2 people that do exactly the same thing, eat the same way and end up with one thin and one fat, it isn't just because someone is lazy, it really does have to do with genetics." And that to me is a piece of the puzzle that seems to be constantly ignored in these types of discussions. Report
As long as healthier foods cost a lot more than unhealthy foods unfortuanately obesity is going to be a problem among poor people. Most don't have the money to buy healthier foods. They also don't always have easy access to healthier recipes. Report
If you can, read this month's article in The Atlantic magazine regarding obesity in the United States (not just talking about childhood obesity).

There is no one reason, nor one solution, to the obesity epidemic for adults or children. Healthy foods ARE more expensive --- in cost and time to prepare. Many parents don't have the time, money, or knowledge on what is good and how to prepare it --- its easy for a child to open a can of Chef Boy R D for dinner when the parents have to work (and easier still for the family when that can costs $1...add up the cost of the meat, sauce, and whole wheat pasta and then having the 10 year old cook it?!). One extreme example.

For those with the financial and social means (that is, access to healthy foods, the ability to learn how to prepare it, etc), you can eat healthy and there is, in my opinion, no reason not to. If you don't know how, learn. You can teach your kids good habits or you can teach them bad habits. My opinion is that no food should be off limits, but that there is a balance (sometimes foods, always foods, etc).

Getting kids to move is key --- and getting them to enjoy it. (excercise --- for kids it should be fun, running around, sports if they like, or just playing with friends in a active way), can be a challenge for some: no safe neighboorhoods, no time, or no finances to enroll them in a sport (its not cheap to have your kid part of a sport team). We don't have one, but I love the idea of wi-fit.

The biggest thing we should do as a group is focus on school nutrition and school recess time. I am shocked at the food my school serves (its not healthy and there is no reason it couldn't be made healthier in my opinion) and I hate that they have a 15 minute (yes 15 minute) recess only each day (elementary school). Gym is only 3 times per week.

Kids need to let off steam physically and schools need to figure a way to work this into their system. Of course, I'm speaking from a middle-class perspective where it could be done: For some poor neighboorhoods and schools, just getting kids to school and being safe is the priority and little time or effort would be devoted to worrying about recess time and physical activity.

The biggest thing to realise is that we should not ignore it, let it go, explain or excuse it away. Its not easy, but that doesn't mean we should give up. I try to model good behavoir to my kids and so far, I'm lucky: great kids, healthy weights, active in their own way (my daughter hates any sport that requires running, but let her dance or do cheer/gymnastics and she's happy)...its about finding for kids what they like and encouraging it.

Nutrition wise: if you have it available, they'll eat it. I grew up where my mom banned food -- bad, because I learned to binge and hide food and my eating. And, got fat. So, my kids get a yummy treat every friday in their lunch and when they have sandwiches, nothing wrong with an individual small bag of chips when you pair that with a sandwich on healthy bread and apple slices. Letting kids learn moderation is very important and very hard. But, that is what I strive for. Report
I have had to cut down on going out with my girls. It seems to have helped a lot! I am also happy to say that when we do go out, they are making much better choices then before. One of my girls is over weight and the other is not. But both seem to think more about what they eat now! I am really hoping that i caught it while they were young enough to make better life long choices! Report
I saw the documentary "Super Size Me" about a week ago. Before I saw that movie I thought that the fault was completely on the parents for not keeping their kids in shape. However, now I see that as parents, teachers, nutritionists, etc., we are fitting a very unbalanced battle against the big fast food and junk food corporations.

People now, thanks to technology, have everything at their fingertips and it was only a matter of time when food would become one of those vices. As long as we make "going out to eat" a regular thing it will continue to 1) increase our waist lines and 2) become an addicting part of our life.

My hubbers, my two little chitluns and I only go out to eat once a month, and that includes fast food. Everything else is made at home and believe me it has really helped our health as well as our finances. What's more, is that it has made "going out" a treat again. Report
I think that this topic is very important. However, do they take in the fact that a lot of kids are taller for their age than their parent's generation? I know my kids are taller than I was and will be taller than I am. (I was always the tallest girl in class until I got into high school.) They are very active and strong---swimming regularly for a team and we've a great PE teacher who gets them excited about being fit. My kids were given adult doses of medication prescribed by their height and weight at least 2-3 years before they were 12. So, I am asking: Do they need to update the growth charts?

I do agree that we often choose to eat the readily available processed foods, but it is our choice. But, I would rather see Sparkpeople choices (ak---us making the choice to do better) than have government take away a kid's toy because the parent is making the choice to let their child have a kid's meal. Really, what good is that? Report
Things just are not the way they used to be. While growing up, I remember spending more time outdoors than indoors. Now, children don't get outside enough. It seems that technology has taken over. I live in South Carolina and we do have a high obesity rate among children. The parents have to care enough about themselves and know that we are definitely leading by example. I think that sometimes we have so much going on in our lives that it makes it easier to not think about what you're eating or how many calories you are consuming. As adults, we have to make a lifestyle change that is priority when it comes to our health and our kids health. Report
I'd have to say,as a parent,when you have a child you are taking on a responsibility that consists of so many small but yet large factors,you are then also responsible for what your children eat,just as much as it is your responsibility to teach them wrong from right & it is your business to provide them with healthy foods & other good habits they'll need to grow up healthy. I understand that there are SOME medical problems out there that not only prevent people from gaining weight,but they make people GAIN weight,my mom has a thyroid issue,I get it,but 9 times out of 10 that will not explain an over weight child. I live in the South,Florida. I have never lived up North & even if I had,I wouldn't be taking numbers on the chunky VS thinner kids,but I would like to say irreguardless what part of the country you live in, you & your children have the potential to be healthy & on point with your weight, IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO,I reinnerate,this excludes people with medical issues,but for any of you blaming the government for you or your kids being over weight,it's wrong,I can blame the government for alot,but no one wants a political debate on all the corrupt things going on in America,just know that uncle same & president Obama aren't holding a pistol to your face telling you "EAT THE CHEESE BURGER!" Also,having money is also not a determining factor,at least not for me. I'm a mother of 3 small children,unemployed but in school,I have WIC & Government Assistance,I'm not rich,but I'm surely not poor,but with the little assistance I have my kids eat 3 meals a day,they are not thin because I can not feed them,they arechildren with metabolisms that I care for,eating 3 healthy fulfilling meals a day is important,Eating a good breakfast first thing in the morning to start your day off is important,eating the right serveings of fruits & veggies is important,drinking the reccommended amount of water & milk in a day is important,daily activity & things to stimulate your childs brain is important & its a part of being a good parent,pacifying your child with a happy meal is not important,giving them a parfait for dessert if they behave is a better gesture,try it. If your on point with your parenting you will have no issues,unless,I say again,it's medical. I do no mean to offend anyone,but...The truth is the truth Report
In Huntington,WV Jamie Oliver went into some of the schools to try to change the cafeteria menus. He did a great job showing the cooks what to cook that would be healthy. In the beginning the students didn't do that well with the food but before his last show the majority of the students were eating better. I wish that the parents, schools and communities would get together and start doing something to help the kids. You would think that some of our taxes could go to helping our kids instead of studying all the wierd things that they are funding. Our kids should be our biggest investment in this country. Report
The answer to childhood obesity isn't one simple thing.

Blaming the parents for their child being overweight is showing a blind side to society as a whole.

One of the leading causes for an increase in obesity is the horribly high crime rates. The children on the cul de sac I live on are never seen on the street playing stick-ball or kickball because parents are so fearful their child might be picked up by someone who wants to abuse them or sell them. As a child I lived on a dead end street with an empty field beyond the dead end. There were over a dozen children (even a couple of tom boys) who would be out in good weather playing and running. At the time, there was no fear that some stranger would come, round us all up and ship us away to be slaves.

The schools have all but eliminated PS and recess. Lunch and lunch recess were an hour long. We'd eat lunch and see who could be the first out the door to get a kickball or secure a tether-ball. Even the girls who didn't like to sweat walked around the area talking to their friends. Almost no one was sitting unless they were ill. WE were role models for each other.

Frankly, I don't see the parents any less interested in the health of their children. There are So many more opportunities to belong to an organized sports team then there was when I was growing up, and thousands of parents drive tens of thousands of kids to practice and games. The only "organized" sport I can remember as a child was Little League Baseball in the summer - and girls didn't even think about playing.

IMHO, society is more to blame than parents.

I really had a hard time focusing on the article because of the photo used to illustrate it. The young adolescent girl barely looks overweight to me. Sure her BMI may put her in that class, but I looked like that at 13 and thought I was fat and put myself in a spiral of self-hatred. Looking at her from the distance of adulthood I see a healthy girl who is growing into the fat her estrogen surge probably packed on to her as she entered puberty. Why was this photo chosen? Did it have to be illustrated with people at all?

I live in the rural South and the biggest difference I see between Oregon and here is that Oregon has what seems to be a lot of money coming in from their state gambling. They now have gambling addiction problems.
Reading studies like the one you linked to is "preaching to the choir". The parents who read such information already care about healthy initiatives. The education needs to be aimed globally. How did we get our American culture to drink more milk? The Dairy Farmers advertised to educate us. Seems that the agricultural businesses need to be the ones to realize that healthy consumers are in their best interest and start sponsoring real hard scientifically based health education that doesn't include sugared milk. Report
The South also has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. If parents are unable to take care of themselves, of course they'll use the tv as a babysitter. Obesity is a class issue as well as a health issue. Break the cycle of poverty and we'll break the cycle of obesity. Report
We long ago gave up the kids meals and the value meals. That doesn't mean we've stopped the fast food completely, but we have changed how we do it. Everyone gets a sandwich/salad/entree of their own, if fries are wanted one is bought for everyone to share and soda is only very very occasionally allowed as a special treat (maybe once a month or every two months), There were complaints at first, but the kids are used to it now.

The kids seem to enjoy the healthier meals I prepare at home ~~ even pleading for me to fix some for them when I was planning on cooking a "diet" meal for myself and something else for them.

Only rarely (maybe once or twice a year) do we have junky food like chips, candies, cookies, soda, etc. in the house. If my daughter wants cookies, she makes them from scratch. Same with cake or brownies. Not diet food, but not pre-made and full of chemicals and preservatives.

My son is outside alot, definitely the more active of the kids. But lately, the girls have taken to going on bike rides every day after school and on the weekends. I've also seen them go out to play catch. And I often have company on my evening walks.

We talk about health, good foods to eat, activities to do, about moderation... Even watched 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' and 'Food Inc.' with my youngest ~~ led to lots of discussions about what is healthy for us to eat, what isn't and why.

I think the trend can be changed, but it will take education and support and lots of hard work. Report
I think everyone knows what needs to be done - but if they take away all of the junk food from their children - than they wouldn't have any in the house for themselves. Until the parents are ready to change - the kids are not going to change either. To top it off, physical education, is one of the first programs that are cut in school. At least that would help keep the kids active. Report
I am so glad that Oregon has the lowest rates of obesity! Makes me feel great that I live here. And I love having the healthy opportunities available to share with my nieces and nephews. Report
The difference between when I was a kid and now is that we used to play outside all day with other kids. The adults never set active examples- they were too busy sitting around smoking cigarettes.

None of my kid friend group was over weight- we were too busy riding bikes, playing kickball/softball/dodgeball/tag.

We would graze by going to someone's house for a popscicle, having a quick sandwich/Koolade if someone's mom would make it for us, or running to our own house for something quick. We used to drink out of garden hoses if we were thirsty- no juice boxes for us!

We didn't carry snacks/drinks with us everywhere and my parents would have never thought about carrying food/drinks for a quick outing. We might do a picnic but we didn't have food with us at all times.

The current culture of fear is contributing more to obesity than any Happy Meal toy. I am afraid to let my kids roam the neighborhood now. Even if there aren't 'monsters' lurking to steal them away I'm afraid that the neighbors will think I'm a bad mother by letting them roam. I would probably think that of them, too which is shameful to admit. The media has made us all scared of each other. Now they are reaping the harvest of that and trying to make us afraid of a toy in a Happy Meal.

My only solution is to try to get my kids involved in planned/formal exercise or have them participate in something with me like a 5K. Sure it is exercise but they'll probably never have the great memories and sense of adventure/accomplishment that came with so much unscheduled freedom. That's what I'm really scared of not a Happy Meal.
I live in the UK by my family recently moved to the US, my sisters now go to school in the USA and boy are there lots of differences! I cannot believe year long PE isnt mandatory I remember being forced out no matter what the weather to run for the full hour or play rounders or netball the only way you could get out of it is if you were injured, even then you needed a parents note. If you forgot your PE kit they gave you a stinky school one yick!!

My sisters don't have to do PE for half the year and one of them said recently you can take a PE class Online?!!?!? how can you learn to play team sports sat at home on the computer?!? Report
It is easy for us to say get the kids outside but if we as parents are continuing in the same sedentary behavior our kids will also. We need to make every effort to be outside with them. Not just watching them in a lawn chair but being active with them. Be the healthy lifestyle you want your kids to have. Report
Although I do not blame the restaurants for our children making poor choices, why can't they be a part of the solution? Why doesn't McDonalds, Burger King, etc. offer incentives/prizes to the children who make the best choices? There are better offerings at these places if eaten there occasionally. Let's show our children that they can choose to eat at a fast food restaurant, on occasion, and still make really good choices. Report
I am passionate about this topic. I have dealt with being overweight most of my adult life. We do not realize what it does to our children to put them in a no win situation. Our children are suffering because they are being teased, no one picks them to be on their team in gym class, they cannot find any clothes that are cute like the "normal" sized kids. The list goes on and on... I wrote a thesis paper which talked about parents being held accountable for children when they are obese. Maybe if parents were charged with child abuse and had to go to a class and pay a fine we would be more conscience of our choices. I realize that we are a society that is always on the run but as I stated in my paper; we need to slow down and prioritze our lives. Honestly, what is more important, making money to buy things for our children or taking time to make sure that our children our children are healthy spiritually, mentally and physically? Report
No, I hate to sound pessimistic, but I have a feeling this trend toward obesity might be here to say. I surely hope not, though! Report
Sounds like another link between air conditioning and obesity. Kids who are overweight are most likely kids who are spending most of their time inside.

Growing up in the Midwest, we were often pushed out the door first thing in the morning and made to stay outside all day during the summer. We had a safe environment to play in and no choice but to stay outside. I'm only 39 but we didn't always have air conditioning, especially at relatives' houses, so outside was the best place to find shady places to stay cooler.

Now that I have a daughter, I don't feel it's safe to have her play outside all day without supervision. I don't know if times have changed so much or if it's just the perception we have about dangers but I know that my fear of something happening to her has a bearing on how much time she spends outside and that also means we have to work harder to find ways to keep her active. Report
My daughter's two yr old had her check-up yeterday, and is in the 75th percentile for height, and 25 for weight. I told her that was great. At firt she was worried about her being "little". I love the idea that she is in the 25th for weight. She is starting out right, with 75% of other 2 yr. olds weighing more.

AND, she lives in TEXAS. Report
I do think parents should become more active in watching what their children do for activity and actively participate in their food choices. One problem I think is sometimes overlooked are the video games. My oldest son became addicted to X-box 360. We didn't notice at first then all of a sudden we realized we wouldn't see him but maybe once a day - this all happening as I began my lifestyle change and joined SparkPeople. . . . I immediately had the game removed from his room for a few months. We gave him a "trial period" after that and SAME thing - so now he no longer has it - completely out of his room with no plans to allow him to have it unless for one evening when a friend is over. When that game is gone from his room - he participates in family time, goes outside and we get to SEE him! Check the games your kids are playing - PSP, PlayStation, X-Box, Nintendo DS, etc. . . . notice the time they spend on those - that time could be used for something much better for them! Report
We start when our children are young, teaching them to be still and quiet. How can we not accept the blame when as they get older they have no inclination to go out and play. Many of us live in small confined spaces where every noise made disturbs someone. I think we have forgotten the joy in children's laughter. Take your children for a walk to a park. Let them run and play. Run and play with them. Teach them how to fly a kite and enjoy being outside. There is so much we can do with our children to encourage activity but if we do not it with them it really has no meaning. If we can demonstrate to them how much pleasure can be achieved through activity we will go a long way to slowing or halting some of the medical problems our children are facing. Just by taking a walk together every day you can make a difference, but our children do not know how to play outside the way we did. We need to teach them how, before it is too late. Report
I think a lot of it has to deal with our "love" for our children. We don't want to see them go hungry so we let them eat until they are "full" not content. Report
Having spent the last month helping my son prepare a paper on education reform and reading studies about education in America - I truly cannot be surprised at obesity among children simply because as an aggregate so many parents are not engaged in their children's lives just as the children are not engaged in education. As a whole the US has become a country which seeks pleasure and comfort and food provides comfort even when we don't take time to savor or enjoy what we eat. That's my discouraged point of view from reviewing so much material with my son. On the positive end of things, I have lost a lot of weight in the last year and have moved from doing relatively low key cardio activity to enjoying much more vigorous cardio activity. I have changed AND I think through things like Sparkpeople - a difference can be made -- one person at a time. Healthy journeying all. Report
It is sad, really. When I grew up (in a small town outside of a slightly bigger town), we were always outside riding our bikes and walking and playing. Now days, kids just aren't encouraged to get out and play! We live on a 20 acre farm, so my boys have plenty of room to run and play and I can see and hear them even if I am in the house. They run up and down the hills playing with their bunnies, ride their bikes up and down the driveway and just play chase around the house. Yes, we do have a Wii, but they are usually limited to 30 minutes or so a day, even less when summer comes.

I really think food education is what is needed. We need to take responsibility for our own actions. It makes me sad to see so many young kids over weight. That was a rarity when I was younger, and I will soon be turning 30! In fact, being on SP and trying to eat healthier has made me think about going back to school to be a dietician. There are days that my kids get a Soft Pretzel and a mac and cheese for lunch! Yes, fruits and veggies are available every day, but that is not a meal. I do let them buy, because I know I will cook them a good meal at night. We rarely go out to eat, I would much rather know what I am getting and know that I am making it as healthy as possible than to eat junk that costs too much. Report
I did a quick check of some Census bureau data (to make sure I wasn't just assuming/stereotyping), and it showed that the southern states have much higher poverty rates than New England, most of the Midwest, and utah. Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana were the highest in the South.

The link between POVERTY and POOR NUTRITION is well established by now. Cheap foods are usually unhealthy; people living in severe poverty often do not have full kitchens; families in poverty rely on school meal programs which are often just as bad as fast food; the working poor often do not have the time to cook between jobs.

This should NOT be about blaming parents for their bad eating habits. Frankly, I'm pretty sick of hearing that B.S. argument, that obese kids must have neglectful, lazy, fat parents -- especially when we're talking about people living under circumstances we just don't understand. It's not like these parents don't already KNOW they aren't getting nutritious food on the table. They don't need to be guilted about it, they need better access to real food, spaces in which to prepare them, and healthier school meal programs for their children. We need institutional changes that give government subsidies to vegetable farmers, small-scale farms, and innovative school nutrition programs instead of to fast food suppliers. That way, maybe the poor won't have to be forced to become the obese. Report
I am not surprised by the amount of overweight and obese children in the south. Their way of life is so different in the south compared to the north. In the south, they are much more laid back and less physically active. I am a military wife, and we are stationed in San Antonio, TX right now. I know here, the heat plays a huge role in activity. It is much easier to stay inside and be cool than it is to get out of the house to play sports or be active. The first day that we lived here, it was 105 degrees. That is normal during the summer.

I think that education needs to improve before anyone is going to see a major decrease in obesity. Not only do we need to know how to eat healthy and make good choices, but we also need to know how to exercise safely in our environment. Many of the schools here do not offer P.E. regularly because of the weather. Then, teacher laziness kicks in because they are able to deny P.E. if they feel the "necessity". I would say more than half of the time, my 6 year old neighbor will tell me about the movie he watched in P.E. instead of an activity they could have done. It bothers me that my child will be going to the same school next year. I feel like we are taking away all chances for these kids.

As a parent, I am happy to say that my children are very healthy. We eat out on occasion, but rarely fast food. We make good decisions before getting to the restaurant, and that helps so much. We are always taking "adventures" as a family. My 2 and 3 year old always sing their little adventure song when we tell them we are going out. It can be the zoo for a good walk, a hiking trail, camping with a ton of swimming, etc. As a family, we do not stay still very often. When the heat gets too much, I will do my workouts inside, but my kiddos join right in. My husband and I make exercising fun, and my children already follow our lead. I am losing weight, and they are staying healthy. It is all in the hands of the parents. Unfortunately, many parents do not know how to teach their children to be healthy because they were never taught how to be healthy either. The cycle has to end!! Report
I've lived in the South for 30 years, but grew up in the North. The idea of slow and easy is part of the make up of people. I never wanted my children to be fat, so I worked hard to keep them in JUDO class, Soccer, etc. and we didn't buy Junk Food. You have to make the decision as the parent. Report
Poor Mississippi it is already the poorest and least educated state in America.
I thought I read somewhere else that Texas was the fattest state (Houston), when I visited I was not surprised, people didn't really move and if they did it was really slow.
We have been blessed all our kids are thin sticks, but I still ensure they eat veggies and fruits and understand that their body is special and they have to take care of it. But my talk was cheap and I had live by what I was teaching, so here I am..getting thinner everyday!
The steps we have personally taken to help avoid this in our children 1. we don't subscribe to cable t.v., all we have is a few dvd's that my kids seldom watch. They have every imaginable outdoor "toy" though and great imaginations 2. video games are for car trips only 3. our family drinks either water or milk. We don't buy sodas or juice 4. I keep prepared healthy snacks always available in the fridge..washed/cut fruit, cheese, sugar free jello..etc..5. husband and I practice what we preach & lead by example. We're not experts and treat ourselves (and boys) to the occassional "junk" food. We expose them to a variety of activities(snow skiing, martial arts, bowling, bike rides....) to open their eyes to how much fun being active is. I'm proud that my kids are energetic, healthy & well rounded. I hope it's a lesson they'll pass on to my future grand-children. Report
Nutrition education is so behind that even when parents try to make good choices, they fall short. Things like switching from white bread to wheat, for instance. Parents think that's a solution. Not that much of an improvement. Wheat bread still has all kinds of chemicals in it to improve shelf life, sometimes even high fructose corn syrup for taste. The wheat is probably toxic GMO wheat and we should be getting off wheat/gluten anyway. Most parents dont have a clue about this kind of stuff (just the tip of the iceberg) and yet we're still scared of things like red meat and eggs and saturated fat. These are just examples. Its 2010! We need better nutrition education available to parents and the food companies need to get on board with this issue instead of flirting the edges with things like General's Mills Box Top Education. Which is a terrible program. Cereal (yes even cheerios) is a terrible way for a child to start the day and it locks the school system into promoting the cereal because they get money for the Box Tops! But at the same time they're only spending $1 per day per kid for these processed pizza/french fry school lunches. SO FRUSTRATING! I'm not a parent, just a fat kid getting healthy. I'm a 26 yr old product of the childhood obesity issue and my heart goes out to kids who have the high school/college experience I had in their future. All they need is a few people to care enough about them to spend some time learning about nutrition. Real nutrition. Not "switching to wheat bread" nutrition. Report
The only thing that came to mind was: "Duh". I think it has more to do with culture than anything else though. When I was in college, every one was totally broke, but being a school is sunny san diego, everyone was pretty careful about looking good in a bikini. There was a school-wide caution about gaining weight and I would venture to guess than 90% of kids there had healthy weights. And there was just as much crap food at my school as there is anywhere else, people just ate smaller amounts of it. Report
Eating well is expensive. When my kids were little I had a garden in the back yard. My husband taught me everything I know about southern cooking. Tasty, greasy and fatting. Over the years I learned to cook healthier. It was a transition eating foods steamed instead of boiled. And eating wheat bread instead of white bread. My husband & I even learned to drink tea without sugar.
Ultimately, it's the parents responsibilty to make sure while the kids are with them they are eating healthy & getting enough exercise. Take the time to see what the schools are offering for lunch. If you don't think it is healthy food see what you can do to change it. You may be surprised to see how many parents feel the same way about school lunches. They may only need a leader. Report
so....the state that has the highest poverty rate has the highest growth in childhood obesity. I'm not real surprised. Report
I find this interesting. My husband and I took a car trip in the summer of 2009, first to Utah/CO then went accross Kansas to MO and down to OK. The farther S.East we traveled (I kid you not) the bigger the people got. I was 202-3 pounds at the time and I felt thin for the first time in ages. My daughter who moved to OK in April 2008 had increased her clothing size at that time from a size 14 to a 20. I have no idea what size she may be now and I am afraid to ask.
I think the biggest mistake that schools here in CA did was take away PE classes after 10th grade. Of course even the way it was taught from Jr.HS to Senior HS was tragic unless you were in football, basketball, baseball teams or a cheer leader. When you see that some parents only feed their children fast or restaruant food only: How can you but wonder that these kids are unhealthy?! Report
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