Childhood Obesity Epidemic to Triple Adult Obesity Rate in Houston area

The YMCA kicks off summer fitness with free event: Healthy Kids Day

HOUSTON – Childhood obesity is a widespread problem that is deeply rooted in the lifestyles of families across Harris County, and educating parents and family members about childhood obesity is key, reports CHILDREN AT RISK. In fact, the organization has concluded that today’s obese children are poised to triple Texas’ current adult obesity rate by 2040, and obesity-related expenses are projected to skyrocket.

As it stands, Texas is tied for the seventh highest adolescent overweight and obesity rate in the nation at 20.4 percent.

As an organization committed to healthy living, the YMCA of Greater Houston is hosting an event on April 30 to encourage healthy eating habits and physical activities.

Healthy Kids Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at all YMCAs in the Greater Houston area. Free to the public, the event is designed to introduce children and their families to a plethora of ways to get and stay fit during the summer as well as during the school year.

Activities will vary from center to center but will range from hula hoop contests, karate demonstrations, Zumba dance-offs, fishing demonstrations by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and “funny face” contests in which kids decorate paper plates using healthy foods such as carrots and celery. Also on tap will be cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts, games, fitness challenges and tours of YMCA centers – which offer dozens of unique summer programs for kids and parents to stay fit.

Staying fit is of utmost importance in the greater Houston area, as one in three children in Texas is either overweight or obese, and evidence shows that these children have greater than a two-thirds chance of remaining obese at age 35, according to a report entitled “Childhood Obesity in Texas: The Costs, The Policies, and a Framework for the Future” released in 2011.

The consequences? Childhood obesity is associated with increased absences, lower grades and stigma, which can diminish self-confidence and result in lowered goals and performance. As overweight and obese children enter adulthood, their medical costs are 42 percent higher than for normal-weight adults.

“Healthy Kids Day is an effective way to inform parents and their children about healthy eating habits and the importance of regular exercise,” said Shawn Borzelleri, vice president of Programs at the YMCA of Greater Houston. “The YMCA is diligently working to address the childhood obesity epidemic that is affecting Harris County.”

Healthy Kids Day is a national YMCA initiative celebrated at more than 1,300 YMCAs across the country. More than 1.2 million parents and their children are expected to participate.

Please contact your local YMCA or visit www.ymcahouston.org to learn more about Healthy Kids Day and YMCA summer programs.

A YOUNG GIRL’S PERSONAL JOURNEY BATTLING OBESITY

Aeryn Yeiser, 13, was bullied since she was 5 years old for carrying more weight than her peers. Her circumstances led to depression, unhealthy eating habits, a drop in her grades, and quitting the swim team, her favorite sport. As time went by, she gained more weight and was diagnosed with high blood pressure, elevated liver enzymes and a resistance to insulin by age 10.

“My husband and I tried so many things to help her lose weight, but we were unsuccessful,” said Valerie Yeiser, Aeryn’s mother, a nurse who has always encouraged her daughter to eat well and exercise.

“We started to notice the emotional and social effects obesity was having on her. After a while, it became a fight to get her to be active, and diet was always a struggle. It’s so frustrating to see your child unhealthy and feel so helpless in changing her attitude. And that’s really what it came down to: attitude. We knew if we could find something to change her attitude toward food and exercise, it would allow her a chance to be healthy,” Yeiser added.

While the emotional effects of obesity are difficult to endure, so is the knowledge of how it affects the body internally. “I don’t think many parents realize that this extra weight surrounds the heart, kidneys and liver,” Yeiser added. “It can eventually become a death sentence for your child.”

Aeryn wanted to be healthier, but “I just felt like nothing was going to work,” she said, admitting to sometimes sneaking food to comfort herself.

After much research, Yeiser discovered a program at the YMCA of Greater Houston offered to children and adolescents with a Body Mass Index in the 95th percentile or greater. The program, among many at the YMCA that strive to keep children healthy and in shape, was called Kamp K’aana.

Offered on the picturesque grounds of the YMCA’s Camp Cullen in Trinity, Texas, Kamp K’aana provides a non-judgmental environment where kids ages 10 to 14 get support from their peers. Participants learn how to live a healthier lifestyle while engaging in traditional camp activities. It is offered in partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital.

Aeryn admitted, “I was scared to go at first.” But after meeting other kids that shared similar struggles, she shed four pounds in two weeks, and more importantly, adopted a new attitude toward her health.

“When she first started losing weight, she was so excited to follow what she had been learning,” Yeiser said of her daughter, who found joy in shopping for healthy foods at the grocery store and entering 5K races. “Over the next few months, she started rollerblading and swimming again. After three months, she lost 17 pounds and gained so much pride in knowing she could be healthy.”

After losing roughly 40 pounds in a year, “Now I feel like everyone else,” said Aeryn, smiling brightly. “I learned how to take care of myself while having fun at the same time. I went from being sad and depressed to being happy.”

Aeryn made the basketball team at her school last year and is achieving perfect grades once again.

“She looks amazing,” Yeiser said. “Not just because of the weight loss, but because of her renewed confidence.”

A bit reserved in nature, Aeryn feels strongly about speaking out to others who are enduing the battle of being overweight. “It’s hard at first,” she said of making lasting lifestyle changes. “But you can do it. You have to believe that you can. In the end it pays off.”

STATISTICS ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN HOUSTON, HARRIS COUNTY AND TEXAS

  • Definitions for weight status for children ages 2-19: Overweight is having a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 85th to 94th percentile, and obese is having a BMI at or above the 95th Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Thirty-four percent of Houston children are considered overweight or obese compared to 29 percent of the general youth population. Source: Houston Department of Health and Human Services
  • Childhood obesity is a result of lack of support from parents and families; insufficient funds and lack of resources; limited time teaching nutrition; and lack of teacher or staff training on physical education, among other reasons. Source: Healthy Living Matters: A Houston/Harris County Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative
  • Overweight and obese children have greater than a two-thirds chance of remaining obese at age 35. Source: “Childhood Obesity in Texas: The Costs, The Policies, and a Framework for the Future,” by Abigail Arons, 2011
  • Today’s obese children are poised to triple Texas’ current adult obesity rate by 2040, and obesity-related expenses are projected to skyrocket. Source: “Childhood Obesity in Texas: The Costs, The Policies, and a Framework for the Future,” by Abigail Arons, 2011
  • The health consequences of childhood obesity are so severe that researchers believe the childhood obesity epidemic will lower life expectancy within a generation. Source: “Childhood Obesity in Texas: The Costs, The Policies, and a Framework for the Future,” by Abigail Arons, 2011
  • Latino children have been the primary targets of the obesity epidemic; in 2007 it was revealed that 46 percent of Latino children in Texas were obese, as opposed to 26 percent and 23 percent for black and white children, respectively. Source: CHILDREN AT RISK, 2012-2014
  • In the Houston area, the ratio of supermarkets to people is 1:12,000, much higher than the national ratio of 1:8,600. It is estimated that the Greater Houston area has a need for 185 additional supermarkets. Within Houston, areas as large as 10 square miles have been identified as containing a single-food source: gas stations that sell tobacco, alcohol and fatty snacks. Source: CHILDREN AT RISK, 2012-2014
  • The health risks of childhood obesity are numerous: joint problems, gall bladder problems and sleep apnea. In addition, metabolic syndrome, defined as a group of risk factors that heighten a child’s risk for coronary failure, stroke and diabetes, is found in 29 percent of obese adolescents as opposed to just 0.1 percent of non-obese adolescents. Source: CHILDREN AT RISK, 2012-2014
  • Mentally, obese children can suffer from low self-confidence, which is correlated to lower test scores, more absences, and a path that leads to a low-income job as an adult. Source: CHILDREN AT RISK, 2012-2014
  • In 2005, a study deduced that if there were a 1 percent drop in the obesity rate among 12-year-olds, more than $260 million in medical costs could be avoided over their lifetimes. Source: CHILDREN AT RISK, 2012-2014

SUMMER PROGRAMS OFFERED AT VARIOUS HOUSTON-AREA YMCAs

(Begin June 6)

CAMPS

Camps at the YMCA are about discovery. Kids have the opportunity to explore nature, find new talents, try new activities, gain independence and make lasting relationships.

YMCA Camp Cullen: Nestled among the tall pines on 530 acres along the shores of Lake Livingston, Camp Cullen provides children with unique experiences and amenities including water sports, horseback riding, target sports and ropes courses. Family weekend camping is available from September through May. Overnight camp sessions for kids are offered from June through August.

YMCA Day Camp: Day Camp is a fun and happy place for children to enjoy their summer break with games, sports, swimming, arts and crafts, educational activities, trips and more.

SPORTS SKILLS CLINICS

YMCA Sports Clinics offer youth-specialized sports training in a clinic setting. Kids improve their skills, sense of fair play, teamwork and sportsmanship while reinforcing the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility in the following sports:

  • Basketball
  • NFL Flag Football
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis
  • Golf

Youth Summer Sports:

  • T-Ball/Baseball
  • Track
  • NFL Flag Football

Please contact your local YMCA for location offerings and ages.

SPECIALTY CAMPS

Specialty Day Camps provide opportunities to teach children specific skills based on their individual interests:

  • Cheer Camp
  • Toddler Fitness Camp
  • Dance Camp
  • Hip Hop Camp
  • Jump Rope Camp
  • Gymnastics Camp
  • Martial Arts Camp
  • Cooking Camp
  • Science Camp

SWIMMING

YMCA Swimming is about water safety, skill development, and fun for everyone. Programs are about more than just the techniques and skills. They are about building friendships, developing self-esteem, and creating positive experiences that will last a lifetime.

  • Swim Lessons: The YMCA offers a wide range of swimming options for the whole family. Swimming builds self-confidence and develops the whole person. Classes are divided into ability groups where trained instructors emphasize personal safety, swimming skills, endurance and social skills, while guiding students with praise and encouragement.
  • Go For Green: The YMCA is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable pool experience for all through this swimming skills assessment program. The program assists certified lifeguards in keeping inexperienced swimmers safe and encourages swimmers to achieve the highest assessment level. Children who are evaluated as weak swimmers are given free swim lessons as part of the day camp experience at the majority of YMCA centers in the Greater Houston area.