Teenage obesity is the excessive accumulation of body fat, which results in the teenager being at least 20% heavier than their ideal body weight. An obese teenager is heavier than an overweight teenager. Teenage obesity is an increasingly common disorder associated with adolescents across the world.
The fact that the ratio of children and teens who are overweight is continuing to rise, is a cause for concern. Acoording to a study done in the US in 1999-2000, 15% of the children and teens in the 6-19 age group (almost 9 million) were overweight. This was triple the numbers observed in 1980. The study also observed that another 15% of children and teens in the same age group were at risk of becoming overweight.
Why should I be aware of this?
The teenage years are a stage of transition for an adolescent who is beset with multi-faceted issues with the body, the emotions and the psyche. The issues might seem trivial to adults, they are real to adolescents, and can lead to substance abuse, depression and suicide.
Obese teens have to cope with the teasing, social isolation, verbal abuse, and emotional torture. They also have lower self esteem and higher stress levels as compared to other teenagers their age. "Kids who are overweight have a quality of life similar to kids with chronic diseases like cancer," says Kerri Boutelle, PhD, LP, an adolescence and obesity expert at the University of Minnesota.
Moreover, obese teenagers are at high risk of becoming obese adults. Obesity can weaken physical health and well-being, and can shorten life expectancy. A study released in May 2004 suggests that overweight children are more likely to be involved in bullying than normal-weight children are, both as victims and as perpetrators of teasing, name-calling and physical bullying.
How does it affect me?
- Teenage obesity affects both the physical and psychological health of young people.
- Young teenagers who are obese are about 25 percent more likely to have weight and health problems as adults; for older obese adolescents, that figure rises to nearly 80 percent.
- Some overweight teenagers have severe liver damage caused by too much body fat, and a handful have needed liver transplants. 
- The American Liver Foundation and other experts estimate 2 percent to 5 percent of American children over age 5, nearly all of them obese or overweight, have the condition, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
All about teenage obesity
Teenage obesity has been recognised as a serious epidemic in many countries. The American Obesity Association reports that " Today's youth are considered the most inactive generation in history caused in part by reductions in school physical education programs and unavailable or unsafe community recreational facilities".
The WHO has identified the following as factors as leading causees of increased teenage obesity.
- Increase in use of motorised transport, eg. to school.
- Fall in opportunities for recreational activity.
- Increased sedentary recreation.
- Multiple TV channels around the clock.
- Greater quantity and variety of energy dense foods available.
- Rising levels of promotion and marketing of energy-dense foods.
- More frequent and widespread food purchasing opportunities.
- More frequent use of restaurants and fast food outlets.
- Larger portions of food (supersizes) offering better value for money.
- Increased frequency of eating occasions.
- Rising use of soft drinks to replace water, eg. in schools.
Parents’ Role in Teen Obesity
All children tend to develop the habits which are followed by their parents. Parents should set a good example and encourage children to have healthy dietary habits and do regular exercise. Several research studies show that well balanced diet and food that rank low in glycemic index are helpful in reducing teenage obesity.
Parents should keep in mind that it is not scolding about being overweight but guiding on how to reduce weight that can really help. They should explain the importance of losing weight and gaining a positive image to their teen children.
What can I do?
Parents, physician and teachers can help an adolescent sufferign from teenage obesity.
How to help your children lose weight
- Encourage your kids to make changes to their general lifestyle.
- Encourage them to become more physically active.
- Make it easy for them to eat healthily.
- Set a good example for them, yourself.
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