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Teen obesity linked to lifestyle

In today’s mainstream society, a perfect image is imperative, a flawless complexion crucial and a trendy hairstyle essential. A perfect body is to die for–literally.

Girls often want that slim figure that most magazine covers portray, and guys commonly desire a muscular, toned body. But when social pressures arise, teens often resort to the extremes.

Anorexia, bulimia and obesity are just a few of the eating disorders affecting a significant portion of America’s adolescents; obesity alone has affected over 15%. Obesity, as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is a condition characterized by excessive bodily fat.

Tripling in size from 1980, the number of obese teens has triggered researchers to dig deep for the causes of this disease. They have found three primary sources: genetics, environmental factors and psychological factors ( and

Obesity may be genetic in some cases, but the disease is not the only hereditary factor. Lifestyles and behaviors also run in families and can have a major effect on eating habits.

If a child is brought up eating excessive amounts of food and not exercising regularly, he or she will carry on those habits through their adolescence and as they go off to college.

“Activity levels of children are generally lower now than in earlier generations. This, combined with the ready availability of palatable, high fat foods, is leading to the increase in childhood obesity,” Michael D. Myers M.D, wrote (, Aug. 2001).

A key tip to remember while eating is the whole purpose of eating. Often people eat only to indulge or they continue to eat more than needed to supply energy and to stay healthy. This is a well-known problem many people who are not overweight often commit.

Lifestyles are also a part of the environmental factors associated with obesity. Choosing what to eat based on availability and cost, exercising on a regular basis and running a well-balanced schedule can either help or hurt a person’s diet.

Often healthy choices are not as easily available as the greasy, attractive- but harmful- fast food.

“I go off campus for lunch almost everyday,” Becky Vinson, ’03, said. “I get sick of unhealthy fast food, so I go to Subway regularly, but then I kind of get tired of that. The problem is there aren’t very many healthy choices at the Promised Land (at the corner of Herndon and Cedar). It’s probably better to bring your lunch from home.”

Some psychological factors that contribute to obesity are sadness, depression, disappointment and anger. Many of these emotions lead to binge eating, that is, eating large amounts without being able to control what is taken in.

Researchers and doctors agree a commitment to exercising and healthy eating is key to
losing weight successfully.

“The treatment of childhood obesity,” Myers wrote, “primarily involves attempts at increasing exercise, decreasing the fat content of the diet, and working on behavioral changes.”

For more information or advice on controlling your eating habits, visit .

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