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The Growing Problem

Let me throw out some percentages for you 16%, 17% and 24%, then 15%, 23% and 17%. You might be thinking BMI, or percentages of people exercising right? After all, this is a health and fitness blog! Unfortunately, this month this blog has to do with a lack of health and fitness. I will let you know what these percentages are further down in the blog.

I have found myself becoming more and more disturbed by the ever increasing number of children and teens who are, well, ever increasing in their sizes. A recent article I read elaborating on this WORLD WIDE epidemic convinced me that it was time to write another blog about childhood obesity, and this time I am pulling out all the stops! No sugar coating, no political correctness, just the plain, unadulterated truth.

Why are we killing our children? Do I have your attention now? Good. Obesity in children has tripled since 1980. Tripled! Children are now required to be on medications once only reserved for seniors. Children are taking medicines for hypertension, high cholesterol, liver and kidney diseases, and doctors are not sure what the long term effects of these medications will be on their bodies as they age.

Obese children have higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, and strokes, and may be twice as likely to develop certain cancers. Doctors are now finding that children who are overweight/obese, even if they lose the weight, may have already altered their metabolism and that food will never be processed the same way again. They have altered their bodies to the point damaged cells and chromosomes may be beyond repair.

So why do we continue to allow our children to head down this path of destruction? Is it because we just don’t care? No, I don’t want to believe this. I believe we are just lazy; it takes too much work to encourage, no, force your child to eat right and get physical activity. After all, we work all day and we are tired when we come home. It is far easier to stop by the fast food eatery of choice and take it home to the family.  

Homework needs to be completed, and then we sit ourselves in front of televisions, computers, and electronic devices for the remainder of the evening. Some of us may have extra-curricular activities and are in the car all evening long. Snacking all day and night due to all the empty calories we consumed, and then off to bed to rise up to another day of the same. I mean hey, it seems like all the foods that are good for you are expensive these days so what is a parent to do? One fast food eatery offers $5.00 bags filled to the brim with burgers, fries, pies and soda. A kid’s dream meal! Well, if you are concerned about the money you would have to spend for healthy food, let’s take a look at the cost of being overweight, especially as a child.

Children who are overweight or obese age faster and face illnesses once found only in adults. That extra weight causes health issues including, but not limited to, the following: high blood pressure or hypertension can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure; excess fat can impair the pancreas’s ability to use insulin (this leads to Type II Diabetes); cholesterol can restrict blood flow to the heart and increase heart disease and stroke risk; discoloration of the skin on the neck and armpits is a sign of obesity related health issues; accumulated fat impairs liver function and obesity can lead to abnormal size in organs; children can end up with cirrhosis of the liver, a disease once given only to heavy drinkers, as damaged cells are replaced with scar tissue.            

Throw in the fact that overweight/obese children have higher rates of depression and low self-esteem to deal with, along with hormonal changes, and all the outside pressures of the world like school, and environmental pollutants. The medication, doctor visits, hospital visits, and everyday pain that these children endure will cost us, as parents, way more than the few extra dollars we might be saving by purchasing cheap processed food to feed our children. Think about that.

So what is the answer here? I think you know it, but let me clarify that as well for you. As Susan Powers once said “STOP THE INSANITY!” As the parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children are eating properly and getting physical activity. It is not the responsibility of the schools, doctors, and health experts.

Sure, your kids are going to cringe and make faces at changes in their food choices, but let them in on the alternative. Be open and honest about what lies ahead for them; or should I say what does not lie ahead for them. We want so much for our children, why would we not want them to be healthy, fit and productive?

There are so many avenues you can go to get started on a healthy and fit lifestyle for your child(ren) and family. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off one more day. Each day you delay reduces your child’s life expectancy. Making small changes each day can make huge changes in your lifestyle. Remove soda and replace it with water, offer fruit and nut butters for snacks instead of processed chips and cookies. Obesity can be overcome. No one said it would be easy, but I will tell you that it becomes easier each day, and the end result will be well worth it.

Okay, those percentages at the top, here is the explanation as per the American Academy of Pediatrics; Center for Disease Control and Prevention; American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health; and American Medical Association.

32% of American Children are Overweight or Obese

17% are Obese

Boys: White 16%, Black 17%, Hispanic 24%

Girls: White 15%, Black 23%, Hispanic 17%

Let’s work to lower these numbers.


Stay Fit,

Merlinda Swearingen, CPT, PFC


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Merlinda Swearingen

Merlinda Swearingen is a Navy wife and mother of two growing boys (12 and 10). She teaches group fitness classes at ODU's student recreation center and is a certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, pilates instructor, personal fitness chef, and business owner with over 15 years experience in the fitness industry. She enjoys spending time with her family, church family, cooking, camping, and finding new information and ideas that are trending in the area of fitness and health. Living a healthy and fit lifestyle is a passion she enjoys sharing with anyone and everyone she meets.  

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