During a recent overseas visit to learn more about childhood obesity, some of the research presented confirmed our observations and others were rather astonishing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has ‘more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012.’
Are they doomed from the start? Unfortunately the research shows this doesn’t appear to be ‘something they’ll grow out of’ as some pediatricians are suggesting to parents. Federal statistics in the United States estimate that 80 percent of overweight adolescents grow up to be obese adults.
One of the most shocking pieces of information has been related to the scientific investigation of The Biggest Loser contestants, most of whom have regained the weight they lost, some even more than they lost. The body’s physiology changes in such a way that their starting normal metabolic rate slowed down to where they burn (hundreds!) less calories per day than they used to.
Danny Cahill, the winner Season 8’s The Biggest Loser, shed the most weight anyone ever had in the program – 239 pounds in seven months. However, his success was rather short-lived as he regained more than 100 pounds and his metabolism slowed so much that, to just maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, his body requires 800 calories less per day than another average man his size.
To add insult to injury, the contestants’ leptin (hormone that promotes a feeling of fullness and satiety) levels dropped and their hunger hormones rose so that they constantly battled hunger.
Even with a slower metabolism and greater sense of hunger, losing weight and keeping it off is possible. There are other areas to address: individualized nutrition and diet structuring, medications or supplements, exercise, changes in lifestyle and our environments – all of which can help ameliorate some of these negative effects of weight loss.
As for childhood obesity, a growing percentage of our clients are families trying to address their children’s weight gain before it becomes a real problem for them during adolescence and adulthood. It’s a smart move because an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.