Teen Girls’ Obesity in the USA
The growing obesity pandemic among the US teenage girls has triggered researchers to ask various questions about the phenomenon.
The issue of obesity and overweight is a considerably common challenge among teenage girls in the USA. Many researchers agree that teen’s obesity in the USA is rising at unprecedented rates and if not addressed early, it is expected to become a major health problem in the near future. “Obesity in Children and Teens” states that “The problem of childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent past. Approximately 12.7 million, or 17 percent, of children and adolescents, are obese” (Obesity in Children and Teens par. 3). According to this report, obesity prevalence is disastrous for the well-being of teenage children in the United States. Sarah Frostenson expounded further on the issue of increased teenage obesity by stating that “the prevalence of obesity has remained constant, but severe obesity is increasing, and kids who already have obesity seem to be getting more severe” (Frostenson par. 6). Frostenson’s observation shows that obesity is becoming a killer condition in the US.
Causes Among Teenagers
Scientists believe that the leading causes of obesity are related to the genetic composition of an individual. Interestingly, genetic susceptibility is affected by numerous environmental factors. Apart from that, a great number of behavioral factors also influence the people’s genetic composition. According to Sahoo et al., the major cause of teenage obesity is “an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure, with an increase in positive energy balance being closely associated with the lifestyle adopted and the dietary intake preferences” (189). Sahoo et al. further assert that the major cause of this imbalance is the excessive intake of fast food that facilitates increased weight gain among teenagers (191). The high number of calories in junk food contributes to the increasing weight of children and teenagers. Also, most of the teenage girls do not take part in physical activities like their counterparts (teenage boys) as required to reduce accumulation of excess energy.
Effects of Teenage Obesity On Girls
Teen’s obesity is considered one of the serious health problems existing in the society today due to its harmful effects on the body of teens. Importantly, the effects of obesity are not only medical consequences but also socio-emotional. Regarding the physical risks, the individuals suffering from overweight and obesity are more likely to have “fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease), cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, cholelithiasis (gallstones), glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, skin conditions, menstrual abnormalities, and impaired balance” (Sahoo et al. 187). The diseases affect the social wellbeing of the patients and make them shy away from interacting with peers.
As opposed to adult obesity, teenage obesity has more severe consequences because teenagers are more likely to have the disorders mentioned above compared to the adults suffering from obesity. From the perspective of socio-emotional impact, children suffering from overweight and obesity face particular challenges in communication with their peers. In most cases, they become the victims of teasing and bullying that, in future, might reflect on their emotional and psychological health. Sahoo et al. assert that “social problems might contribute to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a negative body image in children and can also affect academic performance” (191). A significant number of the researchers have found a close relationship between low academic performance and the issues of obesity and overweight in teenagers.
How Can Parents Help Prevent Girl Teenage Obesity?
Parents are important players in the prevention of teenage obesity among girls. The article “Obesity-Focused Active Parenting” states that parents should always be at the forefront in helping teenagers learn healthy lifestyles. It notes; “Parents ought to be open to learning the techniques to manage child food intake and encourage physical activity” (“Obesity-Focused Active Parenting” par. 7). The researchers point that most cases of teenage obesity are as a result of intake of non-healthy foods. Children become more susceptible to junk foods if left on their own by parents. Parents, thus, as the primary custodians of dietary needs of children, should help the teenagers to eat healthy foods and engage in physical activities that help in the prevention of unnecessary weight gain. However, parents have reported challenges dealing with their teenage girls since they fear interfering with their behaviors to the extent of affecting their self-esteem.
How Can the U.S. Government Help Address Obesity Among Teenage Girls?
The U.S. government has a stake in addressing the increasing teenage obesity. Interestingly, the U.S. government has recognized obesity as a social and health problem and has put measures to help address it. The government has channeled significant attention towards the development of numerous programs aimed at reducing the obesity rates among the teenagers in the country. Numerous programs have been developed to address the problem at all levels. Some of these programs include the Dietary Intervention Study in Children, Know your Body Program and the Heart Smart School Health Promotion.
The implementation of Dietary Intervention Study in Children has proved beneficial in the long run towards the overall prevention unhealthy weight gain. The intervention was introduced by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the researchers behind it noted the following, “Studies showed that the prevalence of coronary heart disease increased by 2-3 times in adult relatives of children with high cholesterol compared to children with normal cholesterol levels” (“Dietary Intervention Study In Children (DISC)” par 6). Also, the same prevalence increased 2.2 times in children who had a parent or grandparent with premature coronary heart disease compared with children who did not have a family history of premature heart disease” (“Dietary Intervention Study In Children (DISC)” par 9).
The other intervention measure adopted by U.S. government is the Know Your Body Program, this intervention is known as “a school-based curriculum aimed at reducing the risk of developing the chronic disease by teaching healthy diet and other lifestyle choices” (“Know Your Body” par. 2). Apart from the prevention of the individuals’ bad habits, this program offers the participants an opportunity to learn healthy eating habits. In general, this intervention program is oriented toward the promotion of healthy lifestyle among the students in high schools and colleges. The leadership of the program is always ready to give the participants proper psychological support that contributes to the effectiveness of the intervention.
Another intervention rolled out by the United States government is the Heart Smart School Health Promotion. This intervention offers “program components including cardiovascular health screenings, a cardiovascular health curriculum, an aerobic physical education curriculum, and a modified school lunch program” (“Heart Smart School Health Promotion” par. 4). The results of this intervention have proven that the program is considerably efficient in reducing obesity rates among children and teenagers.
What are the challenges in the fight against teenage obesity in the United States?
Over the years, United States government has stepped up its campaign towards the reduction and ultimate prevention of teenage obesity. However, despite the significant efforts taken by the leaders to address the issue, the problem of obesity still exists. Researchers point that implementation of these interventions is not easy since their success is based on communication and motivation of teenagers to adopt proper eating habits and activity behaviors. Therefore, how to target these interventions to teenagers is often met with a myriad of challenges. According to Boutelle, Feldman and Neumark-Sztainer, “it can be challenging for the government to know how to involve parents in interventions on adolescent obesity because of issues related to developing autonomy and increasing independence” (501). “Parents of overweight and obese adolescents often find themselves in a dilemma” (Boutelle, Feldman and Neumark-Sztaine502). Such parents may be concerned about their adolescent’s health, the psychosocial stigmas, and the negative physical consequences associated with being overweight or obese, but they still want their children to grow without low self-esteem. Thus, “parents may struggle with what to say or do to help their adolescent manage their weight” (Boutelle, Feldman and Neumark-Sztainer 503) Therefore, parents tasked with the responsibility of implementing the healthy-living programs are always faced with the problem of inability to control teenager’s decisions, particularly around their activity behaviors and healthy eating.