Childhood obesity, why is it such a problem ?

Obesity is a complex and difficult-to-manage illness for all human beings on an emotional and physical level. For obese children, it is an absolute tragedy and, in their childish understanding, an unsolvable problem. Apart from the damage caused on the emotional and physical level, overweight children feel abandoned in every way, and their parents do not know how to help them. Since 2004, the Smart and Light program has helped dozens of children reach a healthy weight without them having to endure the least bit of suffering or frustration. But children are not equipped to make their own decisions or to take charge of their lives. Therefore, it is up to the parents to decide for them. However, before making any decisions it is important to know more about the ins and the outs of this condition.

Little fat girl in Paris 

In the 1960s, an era when obesity was much less prevalent than it is today, I was an obese child in Paris. I was an isolated case and I suffered terribly from what I believed was an immensely unjust destiny. Because of my own past, a child’s suffering really touches my heart to the core and this is why I work in this profession today.

An obese child is often misunderstood and feels guilty about their weight. The sadness and isolation that an overweight child feels can be devastating to their psyche. Apart from the discomfort and fatigue that they sometimes feel as a result, obesity touches children on every level and the psychological damage they suffer because it is a real ordeal.

As a child, I endured so much suffering, both physical (due to weight limitations) and emotional. However, much of it was caused by my own internal demons. I asked God every day why He had made me fat. It is only today that I discovered the reason: so that I could help others fight their own battles with obesity.

One aspect of the overweight child’s habitual thinking is a form of self-degradation known as “the negative mindset”. The types of phrases which incessantly resonate in their minds are: “everybody hates you”, “you’re worthless”, “you are fat and ugly”, “you can’t do anything right”, “no one likes you”, “you’ll never amount to anything”, “you ruin everything you touch”, “you’re a burden to everyone else”, “you don’t deserve anything in life”, “you’re a disgusting excuse for a human being”, “you don’t deserve to live, you might as well just die”, “others have their own problems, they don’t need yours as well”, etc.

Obese children, apart from not being blessed with good genes, have something very specific in common. They suffer from a syndrome known as CNC, or “confirmed negativity condition”. These children are very sensitive to the suffering of those around them, and that of the world in general. They feel the need to look after their families and everybody else as well. These children are first-class humanists who take on the responsibility and blame themselves for the suffering of others. Often, they end up sacrificing their own identities, putting their needs aside altogether, in an attempt to forget their own existence. Fat children carry the weight of the world, as well as their own excess weight, on their shoulders, such that there is literally nothing left for them.

Our goal, today, is to reassure these children, help them recover their identity, and give them back their confidence. We also want to teach parents how their overweight child functions. The dysfunction of an obese child is the same as that of an obese adult and we need to get to the source of the problem to find its solution.

Chubby little boy 

Of all the children who have come to see me, this story has inspired and touched me the most. It’s about a nine year-old boy who came to see me with his mother. The boy was the one who made the decision to lose the excess weight he was carrying. He had found me on the Internet, had read the testimonials, and had asked his mother to book a consultation.

This little boy only had about 20 lbs to lose. The main reason why this little angel wanted to lose weight was the hope that by controlling his own weight problem, he could somehow save his dad, a morbidly obese man with about 200 lbs to lose. All this was going on in the brain of this nine year-old. He came to me so that he could show his father that it was possible to lose weight and make the necessary changes to get back your life. Everything he learned from me, he took back to his father. In nine months, not only had the boy lost weight, but he became his father’s coach. Sometimes, children are more aware than we are and are ready to implement the necessary changes, if they feel empowered to do so.

Children are our future 

Here a few sobering statistics regarding the incidence of obesity among children in various countries around the world.

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that 22 million five-year-olds are overweight.

Over the past 30 years, in the US, the percentage of overweight children between the ages of 5 and 14 has increased from 15% to 32%.

One in four children in the US is overweight and 11% of them are obese.

In Beijing, 20% of school children are obese. Today in China, close to 500 million people are obese according to statistics from the WHO.

16% of Saudi Arabian school children are obese.

In the United Kingdom, 14% of 15-year-old boys are overweight (pre-obese) and about 4% are obese; for girls in the same age group, these numbers are 11 and 3%, respectively.

Italy holds the dubious distinction of holding the world record for childhood obesity with a staggering 37% of its children being obese.

If current trends continue, this will be the first generation of children who will die at an earlier age than their parents due to complications linked to obesity.

The three primary complications consist of: diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, diseases which were previously considered to mainly affect adults. According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, 30% of boys and 40% of girls born in the United States in the year 2000 are at increased risk of acquiring Type II diabetes because of their obesity.

Other studies show an alarming tendency in this generation of children. The increasing incidence of childhood obesity is triggering an explosion in the number of cases of high blood pressure in this age group. If nothing is done to counter this, we will be faced with explosive levels of cardiovascular disease among young and older adults, according to Dr. Rebecca Din-Dziezham, a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta.

The Factors Which Trigger Obesity in our Children

What is behind this worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity? Though DNA has a role to play, the skyrocketing number of cases in the last two decades would appear to indicate that genes are not the only issue at play. According to Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, professor of medical and clinical biochemistry at Cambridge University in England, genetic heritage alone cannot explain the alarming increase of obesity in the general population as it is simply not possible for the human genome to be so drastically modified in only 30 years. The Mayo Clinic, in turn, provides this analysis: although there are genetic and hormonal influences that can cause a child to be susceptible to obesity, the primary reasons for the high numbers of overweight children we are experiencing today are simply because kids eat too much and don’t get enough exercise.

Two tendencies illustrate the evolution of our modern-day eating habits. First, most parents work and have little time to prepare home-cooked meals. Pre-packaged, ready-to-cook meals are now becoming the norm for most households and fast food outlets are flourishing throughout the world. One study states that American children between the ages of 4 to 19 eat some form of fast food every single day! Apart from the fact that the servings in these establishments are excessively large, the foods themselves contain too much sugar and are loaded with saturated fats, thus, highly addictive.

Second, soft drinks have replaced milk and water. For example, every year Mexicans spend more money on soft drinks, particularly cola-based ones, than on the 10 main staple foods combined! Studies have shown that drinking a 16 oz soda every day can lead to a 22 lb weight gain in just one year!

Another study conducted by the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, reveals that, in general, a three-year-old child spends 20 minutes a day doing moderate to intense physical activity. Professor James Hill, pediatrician at University of Colorado, affirms that this increasingly sedentary behavior among British children is not the exception; this tendency can be found almost everywhere in the world.

Sources: The National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic

What can you do to help your overweight or obese child lose weight ?

Today’s children are in danger. As parents, we can help them, not only to get back to their healthy weight without any suffering, but also to re-establish the emotional balance that helps them develop confidence and self-awareness. With proper guidance and support, for the child as well as the family, the issues facing the overweight child can be overcome.

Smart and Light offers a number of innovative coaching methods adapted to children, such as our cheerful and festive cooking and tasting workshops, classes in behavior modification and taking responsibility for one’s own well-being, and sessions in play-oriented exercise. With our approach, we are able to hold their attention and instill in these children the desire for change without them even realizing it.

The many success stories we have witnessed here at Smart and Light prove that children can lose weight, change their unhealthy eating habits, and learn to embrace a regular exercise program without any suffering at all. Dozens of children have already come to us for help and are now able to frolic about like children once more, without any cares or worries, the way it should be.