People couldn't pass by her without attempting to pinch her adorable chubby cheeks. Her parents stood by proudly, as their adorable little girl was admired by everyone who saw her. But soon, the little girl once admired grew into a big girl whose extra weight was something now looked down upon by today's society.
"She" is one of the countless American children currently living with the struggle of being overweight. In fact, obesity among both children and adults has become one of this country's biggest crises to date. Studies show that currently one out of every six children fall under the category of obese. Fingers are often pointed at a number of factors, including lack of exercise, eating habits and good ole family genes.
"Being told you are too big to do this or too big to fit into that, especially when you are a child, can be devastating," says family nurse practitioner Natalie Eddy of Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso. "It's important to engage everyone in the conversation of weight loss, and start making the small changes that will make a big impact, such as switching to low-fat milk or making more low-calorie snacks."
Dr. Michael Nirenberg of Friendly Foot Care in Crown Point says he has witnessed an increasing number of young patients coming into his office complaining of foot and heel pain, many of whom are overweight.
"It really becomes a vicious cycle, since the child is in pain, so they don't end up exercising, and therefore, they end up gaining weight," Dr. Nirenberg explains. "Many overweight children that I see end up dealing with a flat foot that becomes quite painful."
Often, these symptoms can be minimized with an orthopedic arch support. Yet Nirenberg agrees with countless other medical professionals who say exercise is key. Freddy Requena, chief instructor at Southlake Fitness and Martial Arts in Valparaiso, explains that something such as Tae Kwon Do can give overweight children support not only physically, but also emotionally.
"Of course, the physical component of martial arts is important and can challenge these children and get them moving," says Requena, who teaches children ages 3 and up. "But, we also concentrate on the importance of self control, moderation and eating healthy foods. They learn they need to have focus to not only break a board, but also to make these kinds of important decisions in their life."