When children eat more than they need, their bodies store the extra calories in fat cells to use for energy later. If their bodies do not need this stored energy, they develop more fat cells and may become obese.
No single factor or behavior causes obesity. Obesity is caused by many things, including a person's habits, lifestyle, and environment. Genes and some medical problems also increase a person's chances of becoming obese.
Learned Behaviors and Habits
Infants and young children are very good at listening to their bodies' signals of hunger and fullness. They will stop eating as soon as their bodies tell them they have had enough. But sometimes a well-meaning parent tells them they have to finish everything on their plate. This forces them to ignore their fullness and eat everything that is served to them.
The way we eat when we are children may strongly affect our eating behaviors as adults. When we repeat these behaviors over many years, they become habits. They affect what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat.
Other learned behaviors include using food to:
- Reward good behaviors
- Seek comfort when we feel sad
- Express love
These learned habits lead to eating no matter if we are hungry or full. Many people have a very hard time breaking these habits.