How Important is Family History to Childhood Obesity?

If we want to finally figure out a solution to the growing problem of obesity among children in America, we first have to understand the causes of childhood obesity. Naturally, people tend to look at a child’s family for clues. Does family history and genetics contribute to a child’s weight?

Let’s look at what’s happening in families today, and how behavior, genetics and economics all have a part to play in whether or not a child becomes obese.

How Family Behavior Affects Childhood Obesity

Let’s examine the parents. Before we go further let’s just say this is not to point fingers or play the blame game. It is only to find a solution for both parents and their children. No one wants to see their children suffer, and obesity can lead to distress both now and in the future.

Now that we understand why we’re looking at the parents, here are some facts. Children are more likely to be obese if their parents are obese. The reason is simple. Kids are imitators. They do what they see their parents do. If parents are eating all the time or eating unhealthy foods, then children tend to follow suit.

Also, if parents use food as a coping mechanism, children will too. This can lead to emotional eating which has been the catalyst for much adult obesity. So, as a parent, what are you doing or not doing that could be influencing your children’s eating and activity habits? If parents are sedentary, their children will more likely to be inactive as well. If parents reward themselves often with sweet treats, their children may feel the same need.

How Our Genes Contribute to Obesity

Yes, you may be predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions because of family genetics. If your parents or grandparents had certain types of cancers or diabetes or heart disease, your risk increases. The same can hold true if your parents have a disorder that results in weight gain. Body type is hereditary in many instances. If your mother is “pear shaped” and your father is “apple shaped” the chances that you will battle those same issues are likely.

With that knowledge on board, it doesn’t mean that your child will develop those conditions or become obese. Your child’s future is not always set in stone. Modern medicine can keep you and your child one step ahead and away from obesity. Hereditary body types that are prone to weight gain just calls for a more vigorous exercise and diet program. Can you outsmart your genes? Perhaps. It’s worth your every effort to give it a try.

Obesity Can Reflect a Family’s Economic Situation

How much does childhood obesity depend on where you live and your income bracket? If you are in the lower income range or poverty level, it can have a lot to do with it. We know that eating healthy can get quite expensive if you’re not the most clever shopper and cook. Fattening foods are often easier to prepare, easier to reach in the grocery store, more prominently displayed, and more often marketed with sales and give aways. You don’t normally see coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dried beans, peas and lentils.

Community sports programs can help kids get physically active and ward off obesity. Children living in lower income homes are often unable to participate in sporting or community programs due to the cost involved. The money just isn’t there to fund these activities for low income families.

Family history plays some part in childhood obesity but it doesn’t have to be the most pivotal part. By knowing how your family history and dynamics affects your child’s health, you can challenge these forces and help your child maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.



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