“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”
~First Lady Michelle Obama (Let’s Move Campaign)
If it were medically feasible, would you consider allowing your 10 or 12 year old to go under the knife for gastric bypass? This is a decision that as a parent, most of us would probably answer, “No.” However, there are a lot of overweight/obese children and adolescents that despite known risks, actually want this procedure, because their life would be so much easier. Less bullying, less stress, and a better life…or so they imagine. For some, this is simply hypothetical. For others, this is a reality.
What’s the deal?
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. What are we doing as a society that has allowed our children to succumb to such a growing epidemic? During a keynote address recently, First Lady Michelle Obama had a message for parents with questionable eating and exercise habits:
“We as parents are our children’s first and best role models, and this is particularly true when it comes to their health,” she said, pointing to research that kids with one obese parent are more than twice as likely to become obese as adults. “We can’t lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars, and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block. But too often, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
We always say that the children are our future. Let’s help them MAKE it to the future. There are several harmful long term effects that could be potentially fatal, if childhood obesity is not curbed. The fact is, children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
How did we get here?
Well, as mentioned earlier, thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school everyday, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. We prepared home-cooked meals and served reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and occasional treat.
Today, some of our children live and experiences a totally different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut. A lot of times, their afternoons are now spent watching TV, playing video games, and on the Internet. Nowadays, parents are busier than ever and home-cooked meals may be far and far between.
As a society, it seems that we have become habitual snackers. Snacking between meals is very commonplace. Whereas thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day — and one in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day. Lastly, our food and beverage portions have grown tremendously. They are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. The average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces compared to today. A lot of kids think nothing of drinking an entire 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at one time.
What can we do?
There are a lot of online resources that give us options when our goal is guiding our kids (and family, period) towards a healthier lifestyle. Here are just a few:
1. Lead by example. Let your kids see YOU munching on raw fruits and veggies and drinking water instead of soda.
2. Reward with attention, not food. Let’s not reward our children with sweets. It leads them to believe that those foods are “better” than nutritious foods.
3. Make physical activity fun for the whole family. When the weather permits, go for walks or jogs and just have fun together.
4. Take your kids grocery shopping with you (I know, I know…sometimes this can be a headache.). This is a great opportunity to discuss food and nutrition and allow your children to make healthy choices.
We are our children’s biggest influence. Let’s help them develop good healthy eating habits and be proactive with their good food choices versus trying to change some bad habits that could potentially cost them the quality of their lives!
BMWK — What do you do create healthy eating habits for your child(ren)?