Childhood Obesity; Why are kids today so fat?
Who's mommy's little boy? You're mommy's little boy!
Should be every parent's menu
Beautiful? Debatable... Healthy? No
Stand up to Obesity
Obesity in America has become a growing trend; though I hesitate using the word trend because of the negative health risks associated with obesity. I don’t believe there is anyone that wants to be obese, I don’t believe it is anything anyone strives for, yet obesity is a rapidly increasing epidemic. Is it any coincidence that other nations consider "American's" fat?
According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), obesity rates have “more than doubled” since the 1970’s. What is the cause of this increase and who is to blame? Emotions, habits, lifestyles, low self-esteem, genetics, medicines, stress, depression, anxiety, availability of “bad for you” foods, fast-paced modern society, these are all some very broad factors that contribute to our increasingly obese and overweight America. Anyone of these factors can be picked apart, debated or criticized. However, it is in my opinion that each person individually is solely responsible for his/her obesity or being overweight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it isn’t a struggle but we all choose what we put in our mouths, how much we put in our mouths and what kind of physical energy we choose to exert. Yes, for those people who have medical issues, medicines or genes that contribute to their weight struggles, it may be particular harder, I can sympathize with them, but still it is not an excuse.
It is so much easier to blame others rather than admitting guilt. Yes, I blame the world in which we live right now for creating an easy environment for developing obesity but, we are, as Americans, every bit responsible for directly or indirectly influencing how the world around us operates. If we allow things to happen, if we support them whether by being involved in its success or simply from not being involved in its destruction than we are allowing things to be the way they are. Why is it that we can have several thriving fast food restaurants on one block? We support their business, call it convenience or simply cravings, we pay their bills. When we aren’t eating out, we eat a lot of over-processed unhealthy foods at home; blame that on convenience or cost? We may be on the go more than times gone by but we aren’t necessarily burning any more calories. Modern day technologies have made our lives “easier” and we are finding more leisure time dedicated to technological devices now than in the past. A hundred years ago, before all of the technology, people had to make their own fun, now we can sit at computers, phones, videogames, tablets, etc. I would bet it is safe to assume that a lot of people spend more of their day sitting or lying than standing or moving in any real way.
Another interesting point I would like to make is “acceptable body images”. Yes, trust me, I am an advocate for strong self-esteems, positive body images, confidence and loving who we are, but, society has welcomed curvy, thick, full, “healthy”, solid body types with open arms. Yet, many of these people that fall in that category undoubtedly have a BMI higher than they should and are at risk of health concerns related to being overweight. With this new acceptance and perception of what is acceptable body shapes and sizes, a lot of people are less apt to feel that there is any need to get any healthier because they feel that they fall into some idea of “normal”.
Where this issue really starts to get my heart rate increasing is when we address childhood obesity. If my belief is that we are somehow directly responsible for our own health and wellness, then I believe parents are directly responsible for their child’s weight problems. Yes, I said it and I am sorry to those parents that I might be offending. It is time we stop blaming outsiders and see how we can change this huge problem before it becomes a lifelong problem and struggle for these innocent children. If a five year old child is 80 pounds, how did they get that way? Is it his/her fault? This isn’t about blame; it is about recognizing the problem, the cause of the problem and finding a solution. It is unfair for a child to grow up obese because they are absolutely dependent upon adults to raise them and we ultimately control what our children put in their mouths.
I don’t care if a child is crying; it doesn’t mean we should cave in and give them another donut to make the situation “easier”. I don’t care if a child sneaks food when you are not around, lock the cupboards. I don’t care if we are large ourselves and have a love affair with foods, that should be something we should personally work on for ourselves, but in the meantime, save all of the poor eating habits for when the child isn’t around. The damage that we are doing to a child will more than likely care into adulthood problems and some irreversible health issues. Not to mention we live in a time where bullying is at a peak and children are known to “say the darndest things”, why would we leave our children vulnerable to criticisms that can absolutely influence the sense of self and create low self-esteem and poor body image. It is one thing for us to neglect our own health, but we are responsible for the health and safety of our children, so let’s keep them safe, teach them how to be healthy and be proactive, it’s never too late to start.
Tips courtesy of Helpguide.org;
Top tips to promote healthy childhood eating
- Have regular family meals.Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
- Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked mealsis healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
- Get kids involved.Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It's also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and (for older children) how to read food labels.
- Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks.Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips, or cookies.
- Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.
Let's Move! In the Classroom?
One of the newest implements in the "Let's Move!" initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama is bringing physical activity into the classroom. The concept of this campaign is great; acknowledging obesity, in children particularly is a huge problem and looking for ways to address it is commendable. I support the initiative but find myself criticizing this new component. The classroom is for learning and with newer, higher standards that can be quite a task for today’s educators and learners already. There is already Physical Education classes and recess in most elementary schools across America. Most importantly, though I think schools should be conscious to not contribute to student obesity, but it is not the schools obligation to make our children healthy; that needs to happen at home.
When I was a child we didn’t have our school menus altered or vending machines removed. We didn’t need the President’s wife at our school to fight obesity. We spent more time playing and less time eating. Parents and caregivers are allowing our children to spend their days behind electronic devices that require no physical movement. We aren’t spending quality time as families moving anymore. As parents we are setting bad examples with our own devices and obsession with media and technology. No more bike rides, no more board games, no more family picnics or kite flying. Are kids aren’t getting fat at school; they’re getting fat at home. So the problem needs to be fixed where the problem is. Our children can eat healthy in school for the five hours they’re in attendance, but sitting in front of a computer screen, video game or the TV for the remainder of the day is going to take its toll.