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You Are What You Eat

by Virgilio Barrera

Childhood obesity is a growing, yet often overlooked issue within Hispanic households. Families, including my own, often dismiss childhood obesity with terms like “gordito” or “llenito,” to overlook the fact that a child might be overweight.

However, the numbers tell another story. Using data from 2003-2006, researchers found that more than one-quarter (27.5 %) of Mexican-American boys ages 6-11 are overweight. Researchers also found that approximately 22 % of Mexican-American adolescent boys ages 12-19 are overweight. Among Mexican-American girls ages 6-19 researchers found that approximately 19% are reaching unhealthy weights. [1]

People often blame genetics or the lack of physical activity as the primary causes of obesity. However, food and one’s eating habits often remain unmentioned. “You are what you eat,” they say. An overweight person might have strong genetics and exercise daily, but if he or she fails to eat a balanced diet, he or she will never realize his or her full health potential. We all must monitor what we eat and stay away from high-calorie, high-fat foods. Eating a balanced diet, along with proper daily exercise, will help combat obesity.

Eating right can sometimes be hard. This is especially true when you are working and don’t always have time to make a healthy meal. Instead we find ourselves constantly dining out or eating fast food to keep up with our busy lives. Children are no different. They learn from their parents and that is why it is so important that we lead by example. The United We Serve: Let’s Read. Let’s Move. campaign is not only intended for children - it is meant for all of us. Let’s teach our children by example and begin eating healthier, more balanced meals.

Virgilio Barrera is a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Intern at CNCS working in the Office of Government Relations.


[1] Cynthia L. Ogden, Margaret D. Carroll, and Katherine M. Flegal, “High Body Mass Index for Age Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2003-2006,” Journal of the American Medical Association 299 (2008): 2401-2405.

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