Obesity Information for Children and Adults


Obesity, or a body-mass index (BMI) that exceeds 30, poses health risks for children and adults. By understanding the factors that contribute to obesity and its potential risks and solutions, you and your family can make appropriate lifestyle choices and begin to address emotional complications, such as depression and reduced self-esteem. For best results, seek guidance from qualified experts.


Obesity is rampant in America, afflicting about one-third of adults and 18 percent of adolescents and teenagers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. African-Americans are most at risk, with a prevalence of about 51 percent. Children and adults of low economic background are also more likely to become obese. While obesity rates continue to rise, studies to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that such increases may be slowing.


Obesity poses significant physical and emotional risks, linked by the Mayo Clinic to numerous health problems, including blood fat abnormalities, some cancers, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, skin problems, sleep apnea, stroke, type 2 diabetes, infertility and menstrual problems. Obese people often struggle with low self-esteem and body image, physical discomfort, sexual problems and social isolation as well. Obese children are often ridiculed, more likely to become obese adults and more likely to develop depression than non-obese children.


Many believe obesity causes type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. However, a number of factors contribute to these conditions, including family history, age and ethnic background, the American Diabetes Association says. Indeed, most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes; many who do develop it are normal weight or only moderately overweight. Obesity is only one of numerous risk factors for these conditions. People often mistakenly believe someone who is obese is simply “lazy.” Instead, obesity is a complex condition that involves numerous factors, most of them unrelated to laziness.


While lifestyle, medical and genetic factors all contribute to obesity, healthy diet and more physical activity can prevent or reverse weight gain. With obesity at epidemic proportions, however, a full-blown solution is likely more complex. Writing in the “Washington Times” on Aug. 16, 2009, Drs. Robert F. Kushner, Donna H. Ryan and Steven R. Smith called personal responsibility and healthy lifestyle choices helpful in eradicating obesity. The authors suggest that genetic and environmental factors also deserve attention. Convincing the public to see obesity as an illness, not a “flaw,” and improving education on diet, fitness and obesity are key.


If you or your child struggles with obesity, develop a game plan that addresses the condition’s physical and emotional aspects. Gradually increase physical activity, seeking enjoyment and focusing on togetherness and fitness, rather than merely exercise or calorie-burn. For healthy diet, increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limit fast food, processed snack foods and sugary soft drinks. Limit red meat, deep-fried foods and added sugars, which may increase obesity risk; seek leaner options like legumes or fish. Avoid fad diets and do not over-emphasize calories or weight. Address emotional issues and behaviors that contribute to weight gain consistently and seek professional guidance.

About this Author

August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as “Healthy Aging,” “CitySmart,” “IAmThatGirl” and “ULM.” She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit – a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.