With rare exceptions, obesity is not a genetic trait; on the other hand, it is usually familial. During childhood, we are molded by the lifestyle of our parents, learning to approach life as they do. Parents who overindulge, possess poor dietary habits and shun physical activity instill the same behaviors in their children. While some older children, adopting the reactionary tendencies of teenagers, may rescue themselves from this lifestyle, most follow the lead of their parents and soon develop obesity.
Once burdened with excessive weight, these children find it difficult to engage in many of the activities that their peers enjoy. Embarrassed by their self-imposed handicap, they withdrawal to sedentary hobbies which are often combined with snacking. This pattern spirals into adulthood, by which time the medical consequences of obesity begin to appear: hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and degenerative arthritis, to name a few. Recurrent illness and progressive deconditioning further limit activity and transient attempts to lose weight prove to be futile.
In my opinion, childhood obesity, when not associated with an underlying genetic or metabolic disorder, is a form of child abuse, just as damaging to the body and mind as physical and verbal abuse. Obese children face a life of exclusion, low self esteem, discrimination, poor health and, in many cases, depression. Those who manage to cope with these problems and accept their obesity as a normal human condition will, unfortunately, accept, if not encourage, the same traits in their children and the cycle continues.