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Adolescent Obesity in Canada

When is it too much? Since when has a simple act of eating become one of the world’s biggest issues? Since when has adolescent obesity caused so much mental damage to adolescents? Recent studies have shown that approximately 16 percent of adolescents are obese in the United States when in the 1960’s it was only four percent(FDA).

What is being obese? MedicineNet defines being obese as being over twenty percent over their ideal weight. This varies from gender, age and height and adolescents being defined as students from ages 13-17.(MedicineNet) Obesity became a problem for adolescents when fast food restaurants became the most viable nutritional option. Luckily for Quebec schools, however, the Premier Jean-Charest passed a bill banning schools from serving or selling fast food.

“Kids who eat better, who are well-fed, with a balanced diet, have more chances of having a healthy lifestyle, of being able to concentrate and to function to the maximum of their capacity,” said Jean-Charest, the Premier of Quebec (CBC).

Most of these teenagers become obese because it is a genetic trait from their parents. It is known that adolescents have a bigger appetite during adolescence generating a real passion for food. Many schools have decide to sell out to fast food companies and let their students have easy access to unhealthy food; making obesity in adolescents a common problem. Taking fast food out of schools and replacing them with more nutritional foods would promote healthy eating to adolescents. Schools should take a bigger part in the health of adolescents by banning fast food in schools because of stress, physical health and the fast food industry influence.

Adolescent obesity causes major amounts of mental stress that can affect their behaviour in school which is why schools should make sure their students keep a positive and healthy lifestyle.
Studies have also shown that when adolescents become obese and rely on food as a comfort zone, they do not do as well as other students academically and physically. They become lazy and stressed which leads to more eating. This routine causes emotional stress and can even lead to mental illness. This depression makes it even harder for obese teenagers to work out.

“Fast food is also inexpensive; most menu items offer a full meal for under ten dollars. It is easy to see why fast food is so popular these days—it is convenient and reduces our stress” (Hyde 1).
Though fast food is convenient, it is addictive and its satisfaction is only temporary. The stress it relieves is also temporary because, just like cigarettes, it is easily accessible but in the long term it increases stress. Fast food may be inexpensive, but adolescents cannot afford to become lazy and inactive over the long-term. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that health of its students is a top priority.

Over the years fast food has been served throughout many schools causing very unhealthy lifestyles but it reached a new level on December 8th, 2007 when ABC news reported that McDonald’s coupons are being printed on student’s report cards. Certain schools in Florida and many other places have decided to let McDonald’s promote their fatty foods to students who get good grades. The deal between these schools and McDonald’s is that every student that gets A’s or B’s will have a McDonald’s coupon for a free Big Mac. The schools are rewarding good students by giving them fatty foods. The schools commented saying that McDonald’s is contributing to the school by adding to the school’s budget. This was helpful to schools that wanted to increase their budget. This situation is not only in the United States, in Fredericton, Canada, a crowd of students at a local high school were interviewed. CTV news interviewed certain students asking them why they had left school to eat at the nearest McDonald’s. They said that the school food was not good. The B.C. government said that by 2009, all junk food would be banned in schools (CTV). The McDonald’s representatives say that they never approached the schools, the schools came to them. One example of these schools is a certain school in Florida that was paid $1,600 to put a free burger or fries coupon on every single report card containing all A’s or B’s. “Teaching healthy eating in the classroom and providing fast-food vouchers for fundraising efforts is not sending a consistent message” (Neville). Putting fast food vouchers on report cards only leads to confusion.

“To have significant use of fast-food vouchers very much flies in the face of all the efforts to remove these poor food choices” (Haikerwal).
Schools should not confuse their students by teaching them to not eat fast food while giving them McDonald’s coupons; they should find other ways to avoid advertising fast food as it is the school’s responsibility.

The physical health of adolescents is in danger when unhealthy food is easily accessible. Most schools have one to two physical education classes each week. A simple adjustment made by the school could give students proper exercise and would help them live a healthy lifestyle.

In many schools there are laws about recess but in some schools children are not allowed to play tag or even run. This does not promote an active lifestyle. Some people debate that it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that their children are healthy, physically and mentally. They say that parents should talk to their child about exercise and educate them about it.

It is a dangerous to assume that parents are always capable to take care of their children. It is the school’s responsibility to educate. It is their responsibility because, unless homeschooled, children spend most of their day at school. If school prepares you for life, then shouldn’t it tell you how to eat right therefore simply showing students how to eat healthy in small easy steps might encourage them to try and live a healthy lifestyle.

“From 25-40 percent of children inherit the tendency towards overweight” (HelpGuide). For the reason of parents not having enough time with their children, schools should teach their students how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid adolescent obesity.

Fast food is becoming easily accessible and it is the responsibility of the schools to make sure that students are not exposed or encouraged to eat it in schools. Fast food companies around the world used different tactics to advertise to adolescents and have put fast food in some schools. This made many schools ban fast food in vending machines.

A recent survey was taken at 345 high schools all around the United States asking them what they sell, how much they make and how much each product takes in. The results showed that all schools said fast food makes up 70 percent of all food sales. The schools should not encourage eating fast food on a regular basis. They should be helping all students by not serving fast food and making sure no students bring fast food with them to school which might encourage other students to do the same.

One might argue that the fast food companies benefit the schools by helping the funding. What many don’t realize is that staying healthy is as important if not more important than education. Making sure that children know how to eat right is extremely important and they must know what is healthy and what isn’t therefore schools can use advertising of fast food but not in any blatant form that would send the wrong message to students. Schools should focus more on the students’ health and exercise rather than advertising fast food because it will lead to obesity at an even younger age.

Schools should take a bigger part in the health of adolescents by banning fast food in schools because of stress, physical health and the fast food industry influence. The schools should remove vending machines and fast food as an option for lunch as it is extremely unhealthy and can lead to an obese lifestyle. Schools should set their priorities straight because if schools will advertise fast food and not show students how to live a healthy lifestyle then there will be very few who will be able to eat right. By keeping all these fast foods from schools and out of the students’ reach, the students will not have easy access to it in schools and this will promote eating healthy. Children who have one obese parents have a 50 percent chance of being obese. To prevent obesity from being passed down through parents, we should teach adolescents about the healthy lifestyle and what it can do. Obesity can lead to diabetes and heart diseases therefore the school should take full responsibilities of the students.