Image for child obesity When talk focuses on childhood obesity in the US, words like “critical” and “epidemic” have become common. The tried-and-true prescription of more exercise and better nutrition still holds true, but overweight children face unique challenges when it comes to weight loss.

The statistics are disturbing. Not only are the overall obesity rates increasing, the heaviest kids are heavier than they were thirty years ago. Why is this happening? Experts who have studied childhood obesity attribute it to a change in lifestyle. The active lifestyle of the past—walking to school, playing outside, and engaging in after-school activities—has been replaced by a sedentary lifestyle of watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer. Eating habits have changed noticeably, with convenience foods that are higher in fat and calories replacing fruits and vegetables.

The consequences of obesity are significant. A child who is obese may develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (eg, heart attack, stroke). In addition, older teens who are obese may have an increased risk of death during adulthood. Obesity can also affect emotional health. A child who is obese may have emotional problems in school, struggle with low self-esteem, and feeldepressed.