The Generation of Obese Teenagers

 There are many articles in the press about obese teenagers and even obese younger children and so my article on this issue is nothing new but the fact that it is something I have in front of me everyday motivated me  as something I just had to write about

So I decided to write a series of articles on this particular issue. I see it everywhere,  in the classroom, on the streets, in the shops, the village where I live …… just everywhere. It is also an issue that really stood out to me when I came back from Spain some months ago to return to my position as lecturer at the college.


When we returned from Spain My daughters who are 16 and 17 set about catching up with old friends after a 2 year absence and we all noticed that most of them bar a few had put on substantial amounts of weight during those 2 years. Now let me step back here to assure you …I was not being judgmental on these teenagers as people, it was just impossible not to notice the difference that this period of time had made



 My job as a Health lecturer and also the fact that I have lived a large proportion of my life so far out of the UK in South Africa allows me the liberty of being able to look at different cultures and their eating habits and way of life. When I returned from South Africa to the UK in 2001 I immediately noticed the deteriorating eating habits of the younger generation and had a hard time convincing my daughters of the benefits of healthy eating. When we moved to Spain in 2010 and returned in 2012 some 2 years later ..I think they got what I had been talking about all those years earlier!



 The message really hit home when they were able to compare the eating habits and weight issues in the UK with a different culture where the eating habits were more healthy and overweight teenagers were infrequent and not common place


So lets get the information right from the start.

Many  people think that being overweight is an appearance issue. Not so of course none wants to look “fat” but being overweight is actually a medical concern because it can seriously affect a person’s health.

All of have body fat and a few extra pounds are not going to do us any harm but when experts use the term overweight they are talking about much more than just a few pounds.

There are very few people who are not aware of the health problems like Diabetes and heart disease that come with people overweight but the problems range much further.

Being overweight can affect a persons  joints, breathing, sleep, mood, and energy levels. All of these problems can impact a person’s entire quality of life.

More people are overweight today than ever before. We are experiencing an “obesity epidemic.” So younger people are now developing health problems that used to affect only adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.


So how does one become overweight?

its actually not as simple as you think ….but then it never is .

My next article will discuss the issues that result in weight gain.

Am I fat?

One of the topics that constantly rears its head in Health Studies and  among teenagers is being overweight and weight loss.


When we use the word overweight it is important to clarify that what we are talking about is more than just a few pounds.

Everyone knows that being overweight can effect our heart and also risk Diabetes but being overweight can also effect a persons joints, their breathing, their sleeping ,their mood ,energy levels and also their self esteem.

Being overweight can impact on a persons quality of life.

In our looks-obsessed society, lots of people think that being overweight is an appearance issue.

But being overweight is actually a medical concern because it can seriously affect a person’s health.


Unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard facts and statistics thrown around of how there are more people overweight now than ever before. It is what we call  an “obesity epidemic.”

A serious health problem in our society that affects young people as well as adults — one third of all kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese. So younger people are now developing health problems that used to affect only adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes……wow that is scary!

Why Do People Become Overweight?

Obesity tends to run in families. Some people have a genetic tendency to gain weight more easily than others because they burn calories more slowly. During times when food was scarce, this was a real advantage. But now that food is available 24/7 in most industrialized countries, an efficient metabolism that once ensured our survival now works to our disadvantage.

Although genes strongly influence body type and size, the environment  plays a key role. People today  are gaining weight because of unhealthy food choices (like fast food) and family habits (like eating in front of the television instead of around a table). High-calorie, low-nutrient snacks and beverages, bigger portions of food, and less-active lifestyles are all contributing to this epidemic.

As a mother I have constantly tried to instill healthy eating in my daughters and initially it was not easy.

When we lived in a warm climate in S. Africa the diet was more Mediterranean type and weight issues were not as prevalent. On our return to the UK I became very aware of the inadequate diet that many teenagers resorted to and it scared me to see the influence on my daughters to eat the same junk .

As we moved abroad again for a few years to a warm climate and then back again to the UK  my daughters immediately saw what I had been trying to tell them for years. Many of their old friends who had continued eating high fat junk foods over the last 2 years were now obese……   finally the penny dropped !

 There are many health problems associated with being overweight and as regards teens I have identified these briefly below

The health problems that affect overweight teens include:

  • Blount disease. Excess weight on growing bones can lead to this bone deformity of the lower legs.
  • Arthritis. Wear and tear on the joints from carrying extra weight can cause this painful joint problem at a young age.
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphyses (SCFE). Obese children and teens are at greater risk for this painful hip problem. SCFE requires immediate attention and surgery to prevent further damage to the joint.
  • Asthma. Obesity is associated with breathing problems that can make it harder to keep up with friends, play sports, or just walk from class to class.
  • Sleep apnea. This condition (where a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep) is a serious problem for many overweight kids and adults. Not only does it interrupt sleep, sleep apnea can leave people feeling tired and affect their ability to concentrate and learn. It also may lead to heart problems.
  • High blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, the heart must pump harder and the arteries must carry blood that’s moving under greater pressure.
  • High cholesterol. Long before getting sick, obese teens may have abnormal blood lipid levels, including high cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. These increase the risk of heart attack and stroke when a person gets older.
  • Gallstones. An accumulation of bile that hardens in the gallbladder forms gallstones. These may be painful and require surgery.
  • Fatty liver. When fat accumulates in the liver, it can cause inflammation, scarring, and permanent liver damage.
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes. When there is excess body fat, insulin is less effective at getting glucose, the body’s main source of energy, into cells. More insulin becomes needed to maintain a normal blood sugar. For some overweight teens, insulin resistance may progress to diabetes (high blood sugar).
  • Depression. People who are obese are more likely to be depressed and have lower self-esteem.

The good news …and there is good news ! ……  it’s never too late to make changes that can effectively control weight and the health problems it causes. Those changes don’t have to be huge .In fact start small otherwise the mountain will seem too high.. For a start,   cut back on sugary beverages, pass up on seconds, and get more exercise, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day. Build your way up to big changes by making a series of small ones. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!


Because this topic is so huge I have written a series of articles on kids health here…broken down into different topic related to Kids weight.

I have also thrown in a Free ebook on teenage weightloss here .