Childhood obesity is becoming a wide-spread epidemic. The percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.1, 2 In the December 2008 issue of Time Magazine, they stated the life expectancy of children will be shorter than that of their parents. More and more children are acquiring diseases that have only previously been diagnosed in overweight adults.
My Personal Opinions and Experience
Pretty scary statistics, do you think? Let me share my personal opinions and experience. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I grew up struggling with my weight. If you never struggled with your weight as a child or teenager, please understand that there’s more to it than just being fat. Yes, I said fat because that is what I was and I was reminded of it all the time. Kids and teenagers are mean and they make fun of each other any chance they can. It causes a lot of emotional pain. I was very introverted and always felt people were talking about me or laughing at me. I hated going clothes shopping because I knew I would have to wear women’s clothing because the kids clothes wouldn’t fit me. My own mother (God rest her soul) would even make me feel terrible. She’d say “you’re fat, you better lose weight, no one will hire you” or “people don’t like fat people” or “God, I’d hate to be driving my car looking at your big butt on your bike”. You see, she always talked about “reverse psychology”. In her mind, she would always say negative things because she said that would make us feel bad so we would do the right thing. In some strange, distorted way, sometimes it did. But it causes deep, painful emotions that will never go away. When I hear the way some people speak to their kids, I cringe. Even something as gentle as “should you be eating that”, “you don’t want to get fat, do you”, etc. can emotionally hurt your child forever. You may not be saying any of those things to your children, however, if your child has the slightest bit of a weight problem, please be careful how you speak to them because it’s going to effect them the rest of their lives. That emotion will have a ripple effect with other things throughout their lives. They may lack confidence, feel unworthy or even unloved.
I’ve never had kids of my own. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to work full time and then have to tend to a family. With all the activities today’s families keep themselves busy with, I’m sure finding time to cook is difficult, let alone cooking healthy. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to make some suggestions, based on my life. If you do have a child or children who have weight issues, please don’t talk about diet and exercise. It will really impact them in a negative, emotional way. What you can do is start changing what you do and how you do things. Here are some healthier alternative suggestions.
Start taking walks after dinner. Find a fun workout DVD you can do together. Play an active game on Wii or Xbox. Make it a fun competition with some kind of cool, non-food reward. Have them get involved in helping you put together a shopping list. Start showing them how to read the labels. If you know you like certain unhealthy food items, but you eat them in moderation, and your children don’t, try omitting having them in the house. If they are young enough and don’t have an allowance or a job, they can’t buy the groceries, so start making the changes in what you buy.
Let them help you prepare food. Don’t think your child is too young or old to start implementing these habits. A 3 year old can learn to wash fruits and veggies, while a 11 year old can help you prepare food. Have the older child search the internet for healthy recipes. Make it a game. If you one child, tell them you’ll give them $1 (or something) if they can come up with a super healthy recipe for pasta etc. you get my drift. If you are in the mood for pizza, make it at home. You can roll the dough out thinner and control the ingredients. Use more veggies, less meat and cheese. Have the kids measure the sauce, cheese, etc. so you know exactly what’s going on top for calories and fat. Let them make their own personal pizza. If you want burgers and fries, cook them at home. Use lean turkey burger instead of hamburger.
Cut up a potato, spray them with olive oil and bake them in the oven. Eventually they will get use to having things this way and the fried, greasy foods won’t taste good. If it’s sweets they like, start having them eat more fruit. Maybe dip bananas or strawberries in dark chocolate. All the while you do this, remember to make it a fun experience. Keep the words diet and exercise out of it. And don’t relate to the foods as good and bad foods. The more you focus on the food and exercise, the less they will want to comply. If you just change the way you eat and the activities that you engage in, there will be no negative connotations, it’ll all just be fun. Becoming healthy and fit will be one of the best gifts you can give your kids. Think about the rewarding effect it will have on the whole family. You’ll all become healthier, fitter and get to spend more quality family time together.
Child Obesity Facts
Increased consumption of green leafy vegetables, which are important dietary sources of carotenoids, has been associated with reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. 3.
According to http://www.childrensmn.org, 25 out of every 100 children are overweight in the state of Minnesota.
Childhood obesity has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and poor academic performance. 5
Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults and at risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers. 6
Type II diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, greater risk for asthma and chronic medical conditions are a few of the physical maladies; poor body image, depression and risk for eating disorders are among the psychological consequences. 6
Suggestions on What You Can Do 4
Limit fat and sugar
Lead by example
Take a family walk after dinner
Have the kids help with yard work
Do sit-ups and have a competition with your kids
Dance around the house with your kids
Spend 30 minutes every day playing with your kids
Ask your kids what they want to do and do something they enjoy
Choose non-food related rewards; such as a day at the park
Make better choices when you eat out
Eat more fresh fruits and veggies; wash them as soon as you get home so they are ready to go.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you are struggling with this, please contact me directly. I can help you with some fun ideas for an exercise and eating program. And if you have any comments or suggestions, please mention them below.
- Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association2012;307(5):483-490.
- National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
- The Journal of Pediatrics
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
- Donors Choose.org