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Teen Obesity, Prevention, and Treatment | XL Health Blog

Teen Obesity, Prevention, and Treatment

Posted on 08. May, 2014 by in Eating Disorders, Wellness

Our society is obsessed with losing weight and staying thin. Many people are afraid of feeling and looking fat and will do whatever it takes to keep a slim figure. Trendy diets, the latest techniques to eat right, and hundreds of infomercials flood the media every day. Our relationship with food is more than unhealthy; it’s dysfunctional.

As a result of our dysfunction with food, psychological and physical illness has developed, ranging from eating disorders to obesity. Along with the growing presence of eating disorders among teens, on the other side of the continuum, adolescents also seem to be gaining more and more weight. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood and teen obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2012, the percentage of teens ages 12-19 who are obese increased from 5% to 21%.

Obesity is a physical illness in which there is excess body fat for the height and muscle structure for an individual. When there is there is a caloric imbalance – too few calories are being expended for the amount of calories being consumed, the body will likely gain weight. However, the amount of weight gained depends on genetic, behavioral, environmental, and psychological factors.

In fact, an article published by George Washington University, highlighted a study being done by Professor Antwan Jones, who is investigating the influence of neighborhood characteristics on teen eating habits. He argues that the proximity to fast food restaurants or living in wide, open spaces, which lead to little connection to a community, might contribute to poor eating habits. Also, environments in which play and exercise are not encourages, such as having too few parks and recreational areas might also contribute to lower levels of expending energy in teens. Certainly, the use of technology, such as playing on the Ipad versus playing in the back yard, must have its influence on how much exercise teens are getting.

According to a weight loss program website, adolescent exercise has gone down 41%. Of course, as teens gain weight, there are physical and psychological consequences – risk for diabetes, joint problems, sleep apnea, stigmatization, depression, and low self-esteem to name a few. Additionally, with being overweight, there are increase risks for various types of cancer: breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, and others.

One of the large dangers that come with weight gain for teens is depression, anxiety, and emotional strife. Given the pressures of looking good and being accepted by their peers during adolescence, teens can be vulnerable to mental illness if weight gain is continuing to take place.

Of course, healthy practices of eating nutritional foods, regular physical activity, and healthy lifestyle habits play a role in the prevention of obesity in teens. Societal pressures and expectations, family habits, communities, schools, medical care providers, and the media, and even faith-based institutions can determine whether or not healthy habits are implemented.

According to the CDC, schools can play a pivotal role in preventing obesity. They can create a safe and supportive environment for teens to develop healthy eating practices. With the right implementation of healthy habits and with a supportive environment, obese teens can lose weight and stay at a healthy level.

In fact, this is precisely how to treat obesity. Treatment for teens who are overweight include changes in eating habits combined with increasing physical exercise. However, treatment depends on the severity of the obesity, the presence of existing health conditions and the vulnerability to developing certain health conditions because of the weight. Studies have shown that just a small amount of weight loss can lead to significant healthy benefits for those who are obese.

It is indeed possible for obese teens to lose weight, to feel good about themselves, and live fulfilling lives.




(Feb 27, 2014). Childhood Obesity Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

(n.d.) Causes of Obesity. The Anne Collins Diet. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from: http://www.annecollins.com/obesity/causes-of-obesity.htm

(September 2012). The Neighborhood: A Link to Teen Obesity? George Washington University. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://columbian.gwu.edu/newsevents/articles/the-neighborhood-a-link-to-teen-obesity

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