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Eating Disorder

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Is there a strong connection between the fast food industry and the growing rate of obesity among young children? The answer is yes- fast food consumption is a large contributor to increasing child obesity risks and the effects of long-term health problems in the future. Children are bombarded by fast food advertising on a daily basis which lure them into wanting fast foods in addition to the great taste. The rapid growth of child obesity is in step with the growing fast food chains and market. The realization of this important link is the first step in finding a solution to the growing epidemic of child obesity.

A person is considered obese or suffering from obesity when their weight is 20 percent (25 % in women) or more over the maximum desirable weight for their height. When a person is more than 100 pounds overweight, it is considered to be a potentially fatal condition, also known as morbid obesity. Rates of obesity are climbing, the percentage of children and young adolescents who are obese have doubled in the last twenty years. Obesity increases a person's risk of numerous illnesses and death due to diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disorders. Obesity also increases the risk of various types of cancer. Once a person reaches the level of being obese, it is far more difficult to reverse the condition as compared to someone who is simply overweight and needs to shed a few pounds. Many obesity patients suffer psychologically from stress, depression, and frustration. These mental side-effects contribute to the extreme difficulty of losing weight and especially if the person has been obese or extremely overweight from an early age. The majority of young children who develop bad eating habits- consuming fast food- stay with them as they become young adults. "A person's food preferences, like his or her personality, are formed during the first few years of life, through the process of socialization."(Schlosser) Toddlers can learn to enjoy healthy food or fast food, depending on what they are introduced to at this developmental stage. These foods evolve into "comfort foods" as they grow older and become a source of pleasure and satisfaction. Although, genetic factors and inactive lifestyle are factors, obesity is mainly caused by the body consuming more food than it can use.

"Every day almost one out of every three children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food, contributing to a weight gain of six pounds per child per year."(Pediatrics, January 2004.) A typical fast food meal is high in calories, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. Children who eat fast food consume more than those who do not eat fast food. The added consumption leaves less room for important foods like milk, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and fiber. Children are eating more fast food than ever. "It is now estimated that children get 10 percent of their total daily calories from fast food, compared to 2 percent in the late 1970s. Additionally, fast food restaurants have doubled in number between 1972 and 1995." (Ludwig.)

"Billions of dollars are spent each year on fast-food advertising directed at children," said Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital Boston. Over the past two decades, America's leading fast food chains have made marketing alliances with television studios, toy manufacturers and sports leagues. Children are being used to attract adult customers, more profits are made on a family visit rather than a single adult visit. Burger King has joint promotions with the popular "Rugrats" television show and movie. Wendy's has teamed up with PlaySkool toys and Sports illustrated for Kids. McDonald's is in cooperation with numerous toy companies, such as Hasbro, Lego, Mattel and Ty Inc. McDonald's also shares the biggest alliance with Disney, and with every new movie release there is a happy meal associated with it. Young children are lured in with toys that come with their meals and the images they see on television. News reporter Allison Caldwell of Boston, reveals that there are about 26.6 ads per hour on television for about 15 channels. On average, more than half of the food advertisements promoted fast food during children's television viewing hours. There is no practical way for a child to avoid seeing numerous fast food ads, especially during Saturday morning cartoons.

I took it upon myself to do my own personal research by interviewing my close friend's sister. Her name is Esther and lives in San Jose, a fairly large city in size and population. She is thirty one years old, married, and has two children and a dog. She recently gave birth to her daughter Joanna (one month old), in addition to



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