9 Challenges Our Students Face in School Today Part V: Obesity & Eating Disorders

Some students struggle with completing assignments, submitting homework on time, staying focus in class, or receiving proper nutrition and sleep. However, these struggles may be a part of a greater problem that is not clearly seen by parents, guardians, and educators. 9 challenges students face in school are poverty, homeless families, child abuse and neglect, bullying (including cyber bullying), violence, obesity and eating disorders, sex and pregnancy, suicide, drugs, and dropping out. This article reviews the challenges of obesity and eating disorders providing ways to recognize and handle these situations.

The rate of obesity among children is skyrocketing. By the age of 4 years, one in five children are obese. What has caused this alarming trend in obesity in children? Many say it is poor diet and lack of exercise. The average American youth watches 1,500 hours of television per year and goes to school an average of 900 hours per year. That means on average, American youth spend more time watching television than they spend in school! Further, schools lack physical education programs, with a mere 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools offering daily physical education. During the 1,500 hours of television watching, children often eat high-calorie snacks. Additionally, American society is riddled with calorie-laden fast foods, refined foods, and processed foods. Obese children are at a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. They tend to have low self-esteem and poor grades, and they are less likely to attend college (this is particularly true for girls). Children from low-income families and those of Hispanic, African American, and Native American heritage are at a higher risk of falling prey to obesity.

Increased obesity is occurring in a culture that teaches a child not only that thin is better, but also that a person simply cannot be too thin. Anorexia and bulimia are the result of poor messages about body image that children frequently hear. These eating disorders generally begin between the ages of 11 and 13, particularly in girls.

Obviously, messages American children receive from the media and society in general need to change. Young girls learn that to be attractive and to be a success, you must be thin. Boys receive similar messages and learn that thin and muscular is the preferred body type.

It’s important that teachers and parents work together to create an atmosphere that promotes acceptance of self and the importance of overall health. The classroom and learning materials should portray a range of body types and images, because it’s also important for students to know that a thin body is not necessarily a healthy body, and that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

We may not be able to change the constant media portrayal of body images but we can work to talk and show our students about healthy eating, exercising, and overall health. In the classroom seek to assist your students as best as you can and continue to educate them. Continue to read the other parts of this series to learn more about the challenges students face today.

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