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Childhood and adolescent obesity rates have tripled since 1970s and although the rates have leveled off, childhood obesity still poses a serious health risk. According to a report from the American Medical Association, over 15 percent of children are obese; over 30 percent are overweight or obese; and over 10 percent are classified as severely obese. For the first time children are not expected to live as long of lives as their parents have lived because of the growing epidemic. Much federal attention has been given to the issue with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the U.S.D.A. funding more prevention programs than ever before, but the most beneficial prevention and treatment of childhood obesity remains to be within the family. The causes of childhood obesity have been attributed to a variety of factors that include genetics and developmental factors, but the strongest links are the behavioral and environmental factors: diet and exercise. Although no one can argue that diet and exercise play the most important roles in weight management, the issue of childhood obesity is shying away from focusing on the child and focusing more on the family. James Baldwin, a famous American novelist, summed it up when he wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Obesity is a family issue, not a child’s issue. It is never a child’s fault. Our faster paced lifestyles and more sedentary behaviors have left us less time for meal preparation, less opportunity for family meals and less time for family exercise. What is now deemed an “obesogenic” environment encourages over-consumption of less nutritious foods, discourages exercise and encourages sedentary time. These lifestyle changes are the fundamental cause of the childhood obesity epidemic. The health consequences of childhood obesity include chronic issues once only associated with adults and include: cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. The importance of acquiring an exercise specialist and a dietitian has never been greater since diet and exercise can help families prevent medical issues. A certified personal trainer can specifically address individual issues and plan exercise for the entire family. In addition, a registered dietitian can provide the specific diet plans needed for the entire family to learn to cook and eat for disease prevention. To boot, both diet and exercise specialists provide the motivation for disease prevention.

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