Fast food, as an aspect of our cultural identity, alone, cannot be responsible for the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, as the behavior of children is largely reliant on the influences of their parents. Home and social environments, parenting styles, family-feeding practices are the primary influences on early childhood nutritional behaviors. Obesity is a serious and widespread health problem in only certain kinds of societies characterized by economic modernizations, food surplus, and social acceptance.
During adiposity, around 5 to 6 years of age, a child’s body fatness declines to a minimum before increasing into adulthood. A study conducted at Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound found evidence of normal weight children with at least one overweight parent at the time of adiposity rebound, is nearly 5 times as likely to be obese as an adult. However, if both parents are obese before the child reaches adiposity rebound, there is 13 times the risk of the child becoming an obese adult. Generally recognized as genetic predispositions, the causes of excess adiopsity may affect a variety of possible physiological processes, including basal metabolic rates. Individuals with “fat phenotypes” are likely to develop adult obesity but genetic inheritance does not cause obesity alone (Whitiker).
These obese parents are creating specific food environments for their children containing high fat, high-calorie, energy dense foods. High fat foods introduced from an early age, opening a window to a variety of fatty foods loathed as early as the toddler years. High caloric foods frequently purchased as staple items within these homes and with easy access, weight gain continues. These parents often have food orientation that rewards certain behaviors with food. This form of training causes toddlers to derive pleasure from food, therefore a greater desire for food and sensation of eating is looked forward to (Figlewicz).
Another way parents influences eating habits is through food modeling, mealtime structuring, and parental style. With gradual introduction of foods, children are genetically predisposed to accept or dismiss certain foods. Parents must overcome genetic expression of food rejection to further support their child in healthy eating habits. Negative emotions from the adult feeder will extend to the child, therefore reinforcing negative feedback. A food neophobic child will continue to have a negative experience with these novel items unless their peers and people around them accept the food and eat these foods in the presence of the child. The frequent exposures required to overcome novel food items are reported as unachievable with current modern-day time constraints (Dovey).
Nearly two-thirds of all meals consumed by children come from home, despite the frequent appearance of fast food restaurants and convenient dining establishments (Dietz). Having an undeniable influence on childhood weight status, the...