What causes childhood obesity and how can you help?

If we look back to the times when we were babes in arms ourselves we may well have been what was considered at the time “a bit chubby”. The fact is that this was considered normal and no one thought much of it.

However over more recent years “child hood tubbiness” has evolved into something more serious and health threatening into what is known today as “childhood obesity” and it’s occurrence rates have tripled in the last 30 years.

An estimated 1.5 million people under the age 18 are considered overweight or obese. This means about 20-25% of Australian children are overweight or obese. While obesity increased 2-4 times, being overweight increased 60-70%. This shows signs not just of increasing, but accelerating.”

So what exactly are the causes of this dramatic increase in child hood obesity and how does your behavior play a role if any? The facts of the matter are that in today’s world there are many contributing factors that play a role. Some of which include; increase access to junk food for both parents and children, emotional eating, lack of education and awareness, additives in foods, busier yet more sedentary lifestyles, socio economics, peer pressure, pollution and toxins, hereditary genetic expression, lack of exercise and other environmental influences and lifestyle choices.

Sound like a lot to digest? Not really, keep reading as we chunk down these influences in bite size solutions that make it easier to understand and absorb.

All hope is not lost and there are many simple changes that can make a big difference. However until these changes are made chances are childhood obesity will lead to mid, late teen and adult obesity and its associated costs to health to the community at large.

“50% of obese adolescents continue on to be obese as adults”

 Before we discuss steps we can each take lets look at some of the negative effects associated with child hood obesity.

Some of the health effects of childhood obesity:

  • Adolescents between the ages of 13-17 are more likely to develop high risk factors such as high blood pressure, poor circulation throughout the body and high cholesterol just to name a few.
  • Pre-diabetes is also a condition now diagnosed in adolescent kids. Being obese is a contributing factor to diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents that are diagnosed as obese have a much higher chance of developing joint problems, cardiovascular and respiratory issues, neurological problems and poor self-esteem. There are children in many countries through out the world that are now being operated on for these and associated conditions.

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity:

I think childhood obesity ultimately starts with adults and in particular parents. It may not end there but there is no doubt that most of our earliest behaviors are learnt from our parents. Our parent’s behaviors before and after we are born have a direct effect on behavior, gene expression and choices. This is not about blame or saying parents are the only factor but more about awareness so that we can make choices that have positive healthy influences on our children and those around us simply from our example.

The above statement may seem a little bold however for example when a baby is first born it’s critical that for the first 12 to 24 months they are on strict diet that has not only been recommended by a pediatrician but also one based your own research as well. This often sets in place a basis for good immunity and health as the child develops and goes on to be exposed to other external influences in the world.

Like school for example. Life is not always easy for kids at school these days. There is a lot of pressure on kids. Living in an increasingly more visual social sphere means exposure to technology, clever marketing and cyber socializing means increasing exposure to influences. Often these influences are all about having the best, looking the best, being the best, showing off and fitting in.

In this world if you’re obese or even overweight there is a high probability you will be bullied. For some children who have learnt, or turn to emotion eating as a coping mechanism this can create a viscous killer loop of sugar highs, emotional lows and weight gains.

This can equate into the person being bullied having low self-esteem leading to emotional distress and even more serious and life-threatening issues later on down the road.

Sedentary lifestyles are commonplace in a world where over consumption of computers and physically stationary platforms such facebook and play stations can flood their daily lives. However despite these modern options we must always remember that no matter what our environmental influences are we do, as do our kids, have the option to inform ourselves and maintain a balance of the best quality healthy lifestyle options.

Have you ever met or heard of one adolescent that  truly enjoyed being overweight or obese or wanted to remain that way. All that these children really want is to enjoy their school years as stress free as possible. In order to do that some steps of action need to take place and whilst there is no exact universal approach that perfectly fits every person and situation there are some commonalities that work.

Whilst we don’t have room to list every option here are a few suggestions to help and inspire.

Baby Steps: If you are just getting started with your new lean body lifestyle start small by adding at least one of the following to your life today and add a new one each week.

  • Lifestyle– If you or your kids live a sedentary lifestyle and don’t really want change then transforming your body through weight loss can be tough. You’ve got to want it strongly in order to succeed. Decide on powerful reasons for change and constantly remind your self of these reasons whilst always adding more and more powerful reasons through learning and sharing new information and benefits of healthy living.
  •  Nutrition– Drink plenty of water (2-3 ltrs) per day. Speak with a certified nutritionist and have them help develop a plan for you and your family that will help you lose weight. 0.5-1kg per week is a healthy amount to lose.

No matter how many miles a person can run or push-ups they can do, eating poorly is taking its heavy toll the moment you do it. There’s a great quote that reads, “You can never out train a bad diet”.

  • Exercise– combining regular consistent prescribed movement with proper nutrition is one of the best ways to give you the quickest and best results. This will have you feeling great with increased energy levels. These new feelings and energy levels act as powerful motivation to spur you forward with your plan. To begin with you can focus on doing regular cardiovascular activity such as walking for 30 minutes to an hour each day. Can’t spare 30 minutes a day in one block then try two 15 minutes blocks or even start with 15 minutes of brisk walking each day and increase from there.

Depending on your current level of health and fitness level it is always best to consult a professional such as a Personal Trainer who has a history of helping people lose weight. Doing this and getting started on a more efficient and specialized training program will only increase results and support long term success? Make sure to get proper rest as well 8 hours of sleep per night as often as possible.

  • Consistency– eating healthy food 80% of the time (cheat meals 20% of the time) working out regularly and committing your life to change is why consistency is probably the most important step. There will come a time where you may not see the scales changing. Depending on the type of exercise program you are doing you may actually be gaining weight (lean muscle) but still losing fat. This could be confusing or discouraging if you don’t understand what’s taking place in your body. Interpreting this correctly is essential to progress instead of losing motivation. This is not the time to give up! Its essential to understand what’s happening and leaning on the experience of a trainer or correct information to stay focused on your goals is what’s needed here.
  •  Accountability – Plug yourself into a group of other individuals that are wanting to or are changing their lives through health & fitness. This always helps with motivation and when you get down other people can often help lift you up. Going it alone and having self-doubts as well as potential doubts from others only tempts failure where as if you have a good supporting group you can avoid this. In the beginning making an appointment to exercise with others keeps us accountable and is a great bridge to benefits.
  •  Goals, Rewards and Acknowledgment Once you start losing weight you will also begin to receive positive acknowledgement from people around you. Whilst this is may not be not your sole reason for losing weight, allow yourself to feel good about the compliments and let these good feelings drive you forward. Ideally don’t rely on external acknowledgement. It is also best to acknowledge yourself and your kids for any and all progress.

Set up initial realistic goals with a plan to achieve them as well as setting rewards. You may have an end goal in mind as well as milestones such as weekly targets along the way. As you reach these targets be sure and reward yourself for tiny triumphs.

If you miss a target here and there don’t give up. Simply review your plan and the actions you have taken that lead to that outcome. Don’t be afraid to discuss this with someone who can offer constructive support and help you get back on track.


In closing, childhood obesity is a very serious thing. One study in Australia showed at least 30% of adolescent children were overweight or obese. That number had been increasing since.

“If weight gain continues the path it is following, by the year 2020, 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese”

Be aware with the convenience of sugary and processed foods, which are marketed very well, and are also addictive. If you’re really want to live a healthier life for yourself and the life of your children you can start today by taking some of the steps above and learning more as you go along the path.

Don’t wait to lose weight some day as patterns of behavior are often more difficult to change the longer we live them.

Start now so you can be an example inspiration to children who are fighting the causes of childhood obesity.

Why not make a decision right now to incorporate one new thing that supports you in getting started today or further supports your efforts to date in living with healthier weight levels and a healthier body and mind lifestyle today.

If you are not sure how to get started or what you should do next you can email us play@playfitness.com.au, join our newsletter at www.playfitness.com.au or call us on 07 5437 8322.

* All quotes in bold where obtained from http://www.child-obesity.info/child-health/alarming-statistics-about-child-obesity-in-australia.html