Important Facts about Puberty and Overweight Girls
Baby fat may be an affectionate term for chubby toddlers, but as they grow older, it is no longer cute and is termed as being overweight. Girls in particular face complications when they carry extra weight with an early onset of puberty.
An alarming number of children in today’s society are considered to be overweight. This assessment is made based on body mass index (BMI), which uses both height and weight to determine the amount of body fat is stored on the body. There are four main categories under which children are placed:
- Underweight = BMI that is less than the 5th percentile
- Normal weight = BMI that is equal to the 5th yet less than the 85th percentile
- Overweight = BMI that is equal to the 85th yet below the 95th percentile
- Obese = BMI that is equal to or greater than the 95th percentile
These figures are not the ideal measurement in that excess muscle development can be misinterpreted as fat. Visual assessments are often the first indication that a child is overweight, and should be addressed as soon as possible.
There are a number of health risks that face children who are heavier than normal. Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are disorders that many associate with adults; however, they are all disorders that face overweight children as well. In addition, they are at risk for developing obstructed sleep apnea, depression and joint problems.
Overweight girls face yet another problem: early onset of puberty, also called precocious puberty. There is documented proof that girls who carry additional weight reach puberty earlier than their normal weight peers. Doing so opens these young girls up to a plethora of medical issues and mental issues. Psychosocial problems such as depression, negative body image, self-consciousness, fear of rejection and more often plague the child, setting the stage for an insecure and withdrawn adult.
There is no set time for a girl to enter puberty. It can be said, however, that it typically occurs between the ages of 9 and 15. When menstruation begins before the age of 8, the child is at greater risk of developing a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a hormonal disorder. In addition, it is believed that girls who are overweight before beginning to have their periods are more likely to be overweight adults; a pattern that can lead to many more medical disorders.
There are many reasons that more children are overweight today than at any other time in history. The convenience and availability of fast food and processed food products makes it easy for busy parents to feed their families, but the amount of fat and calories in this fare causes accumulation of fat storage on the body and offer little in the way of nutritional value.
Children in today’s society spend less and less time outdoors playing and just generally being active than ever before. The technological age that has brought us instantaneous contact with anyone in the world has also been a component in the unusually high number of overweight girls and boys. Computer social networks, video gaming and television watching has replaced games of football, tag and bike riding of the previous generation. This sedentary lifestyle, along with diets of fast food and processed foods, has developed a generation of overweight individuals.
To correct this problem, children must be encouraged to develop a more active lifestyle and adopt a healthier diet. Through dedication and focus, the trend of underactive and overweight children can be reversed, resulting in a healthier and more responsible generation of individuals.