Kids are lazier, lifestyles are more sedentary, parents are more interested in convenience than nutrition. There are many theories to explain the rise in obesity. Is it as bad as the statistics would have us to believe? Is there more to it than simply putting down that chocolate bar? beijingkids went down to the International School of Beijing to chew the fat and see what the so-called Facebook generation has to say about the world’s expanding waistlines.
Bronwen Hale, 16, USA
Melissa Powers, 15, Singapore
Sophie Zhang, 15, USA
Stephanie Hon, 16, USA
Sunny Lee, 16, Korean
Do you think childhood obesity is an issue?
Bronwen: I definitely believe childhood obesity is an issue. It affects people’s health in adulthood and needs to be dealt with in childhood.
Sunny: I think it’s a really big issue. Childhood obesity cases have grown exponentially in recent decades. It causes a great amount of health problems in later years: mental problems, physical problems, heart attacks.
Stephanie: I believe childhood obesity is a rising issue. And many kids don’t meet the daily requirement of physical activity.
Sophie: I agree. One in six 15-year-olds are obese in the US. It affects their mental abilities, their health.
Melissa: It affects your childhood negatively and can affect your future. You can develop bad habits that you take into adulthood. It’s better to deal with obesity in your childhood than deal with it in the future.
Bronwen: I think there are a lot mental consequences – I know from experience with a friend. Obese people can view themselves as being less than other people which can lead to depression. It can be really difficult.
Are parents to blame?
Melissa: I think it can be a form of neglect. You can’t expect kids to be able to pay for all of the junk food themselves; they’re getting the money from somewhere. The parents should be in charge.
Sophie: I think there are other factors that parents can’t control. If parents restrict what kids eat, kids can become addicted to what’s forbidden to them. I don’t think they’re completely to blame.
Bronwen: Parents don’t only neglect their kids based on what they feed them, but also the amount of time they spend with them. In most families both parents work outside the home, and there’s no one to monitor their children’s activities. The parents need to enforce healthy eating choices.
Sunny: Children learn from their parents. If they’re constantly eating out, or eating junk food, they pick up this habit from their parents. Then they think it’s right.
Stephanie: For the most part, the parents are to blame. The parents are normally the ones giving kids unhealthy things to eat.
Melissa: I believe the term is killing with kindness.
Bronwen: They’re not entirely to blame. Society is pushing more towards a sedentary lifestyle. It’s hard for parents not to just give in.
Sunny: It’s a parent’s job to teach self-control. They expect teachers and society to do it for them.
Should junk food be marketed towards children?
Stephanie: I think companies have the right to advertise. I don’t think people are influenced by a junk food ad.
Bronwen: I think it’s hard to know if you’ve been influenced by a junk food ad. You don’t look at something and say, “That influences me.” It’s more subconscious than that.
Sophie: I don’t believe it should be targeted towards children. Forty percent of ads during kids programming is for junk food. Kids are really impressionable.
What is the cause for childhood obesity?
Bronwen: I think it’s society. It’s a downward spiral revolving around computer and TV screens. The ratio of indoor play to outdoor play is increasing. There are more processed foods. With all of these things available it comes down to the individual to make a choice.
Stephanie: It’s society and the individual.
Companies are now replacing natural ingredients with less healthy, artificial ones.
And at restaurants they always ask you if you want to up-size.
Sophie: The kids who are obese today would have been obese 30 years ago. I think it has more to do with your character. But I read that 90 percent of snacks have high glucose syrup instead of sugar, so it doesn’t really matter what kids choose to eat, they still eat badly.
Melissa: I’d just like to add: We’re in a recession – junk food is cheaper and faster. People are going to choose that.
Sunny: I think it’s the individual’s choices. There’s always the choice to eat a celery stick instead of a cookie, to go outside instead of staying indoors.
Is obesity genetic?
Melissa: I think there is a predisposition to being obese. But I think people can keep it in check.
Sophie: There’s always going to be people who are more susceptible to becoming obese. I think it has more to do with habits passed from parents than genetics, though.
Bronwen: I think it’s genetic, but it’s always been genetic. So what accounts for the rise of obesity currently? I read that the genes that once favored survival now favor obesity.
Sunny: People have different metabolisms. Though there’s an internal genetic thing, it always comes to personal choice. If you know you have a low metabolism, it’s up to you to eat less or eat the right food.
Stephanie: I believe it’s genetic, but I think it can be controlled. It doesn’t mean you have to be obese.
Does society judge obese people?
Sophie: I think we look differently at people who are obese. People think thin is beautiful. It can be a sign of weakness if you eat to fill a void.
Sunny: We do sometimes look down on people. But there are positive images – like Santa Claus, boxers or fighters, sumo wrestlers. You don’t look down on them.
Bronwen: I think we definitely view them negatively. I think obese people look down on themselves far more than we do. Society’s expectations cause them to feel badly about themselves.
Melissa: We don’t like to admit that we judge people on sight, but we pretty much do. But I think it’s what causes people to be obese that people judge them by. We might think they have poor self-control or are lazy.
Stephanie: I agree, but I think that obese people should realise they can take it into their own hands. This is something they can change.
Can anything be done about childhood obesity?
Melissa: I think junk food shouldn’t be so low on the supermarket selves. If kids see less of the items, they won’t want them as much.
Bronwen: I think the key word here is proximity. It’s so easy, especially in the States. We should increase the proximity of healthy foods.
Sunny: A way to fix the problem is to change the parents’ views. They expect everyone to teach their kids for them. It’s the parents that really matter.
Sophie: I don’t think making junk food less accessible is the solution. It’s better to
encourage healthy habits. I think it’s important for schools to educate children. Kids do what they don’t normally do at home, at school.
Stephanie: Education plays a big factor for parents and children. Most healthy foods are in the back of the supermarket, this needs to be changed.
Is the obesity problem really an “epidemic” or is it a myth?
Sunny: I don’t think it’s a myth. I think it’s an epidemic. Poorer people can’t afford to eat healthy food, they just eat what is cheap and fills them up, like McDonalds.
Bronwen: It’s more about someone’s environment than their social class. At public school back home, a lot more people were content with eating a lot.
Sophie: I think it has a lot to do with the culture and society. In China, people walk; the West is more designed for vehicles. In the States, obesity is a problem; there are stats to prove it.
Stephanie: It might not be obvious now but if unhealthy lifestyles continue then obesity will become a more obvious problem.
Melissa: I think the reason there’s so much of an outcry is because people are trying to change their eating habits before it gets out of hand. I think people are trying to address it before it becomes a huge problem.
Bronwen: It’s probably not as big as the media and the statistics show us. Perhaps governments are trying to make us healthier by scaring us into it, but I still believe it’s a problem.