Obesity has become an obvious problem of many adults throughout the globe and sadly a great number of children, as well. Although most people instantly think of the U.S. when it comes to obesity, truth is children in Hong Kong are not much better off. More than 20% or 1 in 5 school children in Hong Kong is considered obese. Although the government has taken certain steps towards educating the general population about the problem and implementing healthy food in schools, it seems as if many parents don’t take the problem seriously. There seems to be a general misconception that a few extra pounds can’t hurt a child. Some parents even find chubby children adorable and are happy to see their waistlines grow. The thing is childhood obesity is not adorable. It is dangerous. Diabetes, heart disease and premature death are very real and very serious problems every obese child faces.
Obesity is defined as having excess body fat while overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. The primary cause of both problems is an imbalance between calorie consumption and calories expended. Eating habits of today’s youngsters have changed considerably under the influence of the western culture. Never before was fast food as widespread as it is today. Soft drinks, sweets and fast food are available on every corner in Aberdeen and the rest of Hong Kong.
Another factor is the sedentary lifestyle. Children simply don’t move as much as children 20 years ago. They spend their days in schools and their free time is rarely used for physical activities. Many would much rather stay at home, watch TV, play some video games and surf the Internet while munching on a bag of chips.
It should also be taken into consideration that obesity tends to run in families. There are genetic factors to be considered which may attribute to the likelihood of obesity and obesity related diseases. While genetics can have an impact on weight, fact is that members of the same family tend to eat the same food. So, obese parents are more likely to raise obese children. Many of them simply don’t know how to cook a healthy meal that would provide all the necessary nutrients to a growing child. Also, children tend to mimic the behavior and habits of their parents.
Reports demonstrate a tendency for overweight children to stay obese throughout their adulthood. Childhood obesity also causes discrimination and stigmatization. Obese children get bullied and teased in school leaving permanent scars on their psyche. They are more inclined to have a poor body image, low self-esteem and low self-confidence. They tend to build negative self-images that later lead to more problems such as anorexia or bulimia. These negative self-images are often carried into adulthood.
In light of all these facts, the importance of physical activity cannot be stressed enough. Obesity and all related diseases are easily preventable. It’s not just the parents that play a major role in treating and preventing obesity and all related diseases, but schools and the social environment as well. Educating the public about healthy food and the importance of physical activity and implementing healthy school meals in all schools in Hong Kong is of crucial importance for the generation to come.