heavy as a child…obese as an adult?

I ran into a study that really got me thinking…

Over 7,000 children were studied over a period of years and the findings suggest that children that are heavy or overweight in kindergarten, around 5 years old, have a higher likelihood of being obese by the eighth grade. Most 5-year-olds that are obese typically remain obese.

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photo: Fresh Healthy Vending

Of course there are exceptions to the rule such as normal-weight children growing into the overweight or obese category, or heavy children losing weight and being categorized as normal-weight. However, as each child grew, the chances of any large fluctuations in weight categorization diminished. By 11 years old most children predicted their weight category for pretty much their lifetime into adulthood. You can read more of the gritty details in the New York Times’ synopsis, it’s an interesting recap.

But um, what?! Does this suggest that anyone’s future weight could be set in stone by early childhood?

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, and this study shows that it’s probably even harder to correct than we realized. It isn’t just about swapping out soda for water or putting limitations on the amount of sedentary TV-watching per child. It’s about setting real values and habits, teaching kids what a healthy lifestyle is.

The NYTimes article does mention that current tactics to help childhood obesity may be too general or too widespread, not making a genuine impact on the children who need the serious help.

Now since I don’t have any kids of my own, I know absolutely nothing about this. Throwing in the psychology behind bodyweight and children, and especially how fragile young girls are when it comes to body image, makes my head spin. How does the issue get approached so the children adapt to healthier lifestyles without making them think they’re failures or different from their friends? How do you target those who need the most help without isolating them and potentially making their problem worse via disordered eating or something worse?

I’m curious what you all think. Teachers especially, since you are with them all day every day. What’s the way to fix this problem? Do you think we will ever see a true reversal (however minimal it may be) of childhood obesity?

This topic really interests me and I kind of want to figure out a way to get more involved with it. Anyone know of good ways to help or organizations that could point me in the right direction?

photo credit: Fresh Healthy Vending