Dealing with childhood obesity

Written by Contributor. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on December 21, 2011 with No Comments


Dr. David Katz

“Obese” is not the word that should first come to mind when we think of the nation’s young people. “Vivacious” might be a good one. “Creative,” “intelligent” and “optimistic” are not bad, either.

And yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for 12.5 million young people in the U.S., “obese” defines them.

“When you consider how it limits the potential of so many children, isolates them, and shortens their lives, you can see why childhood obesity gets so much ink these days. And yet, all the ‘awareness’ in the world isn’t solving the problem, said Dr. David Katz, a leading international authority on nutrition, weight management and the prevention of chronic disease.

“And while it’s too crucial a topic not to talk about, all the scary statistics haven’t been able to move the needle on this national epidemic.”

 We operate on the premise that being overweight isn’t just a physical issue,” said Dr. Katz. “Fixing it is not just about eating more healthfully and exercising. It’s also about overcoming negative emotions, low self-esteem, social anxiety and more. All of these factors play into the toxic cycle that leads to excess weight. We take into account the mind, body, and spirit.”

“Today’s young people are disconnected from the natural world,” he said. “We need to unplug their video games and computers, turn off the TV and get them moving. Get their hands in the earth and teach them a healthier way to relate to food.

Dr. David Katz

“Students can spend huge parts of their days breathing fresh air via fitness clinics outdoors, walking around a lake, working with horses, taking lengthy bike rides. As they get back to nature, and to a more natural way of living, their minds, spirits, and bodies slowly become healthier.”

Equine-assisted therapy is a fun, non-threatening way for teens to develop problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, personal accountability and improved self-esteem.

“Horses can reach kids that no one else can,” says Dr. Katz. “It gives them tasks that lead to confidence and self-esteem.

“Overweight young people face bullying, name-calling and endless small slights, both intentional and unintentional. In addition they are constantly bombarded with messages in magazines, television shows, ads, and movies that thinner is better and that it’s OK to make fun of and marginalize overweight and obese people. All of this takes a serious toll on their self-image

 “Perhaps the most significant change children can achieve is when they start off feeling despondent but leave feeling like new,” said Dr. Katz. “The changes that are made are not skin-deep. There are tremendous shifts in personal responsibility, self-esteem, healthy risk taking, and the students also develop a sense of hope through accomplishing tremendous goals.

“A young person doesn’t just achieve a change in his/her physical form,” he adds. “The way they relate to their own emotions, their environment, and the people around them is truly transformed.”

About the Author:

Dr. David Katz is one of the leading international authorities on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease. He is the founding director of Yale University Prevention Research Center, director and founder of Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital, president of Turn the Tide Foundation, Inc., and editor-in-chief of the Childhood Obesity journal. For more information on Turn the Tide Foundation, Inc., visit

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