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Childhood Obesity: Why?
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Let's stop blaming the children!
How can we expect the kids to make healthier choices if
those of us with more mature brains don't make some changes ourselves? This doesn't mean
we should now turn to blaming ourselves — the adults, the parents, the grandparents, the schools,
the food industry, new technology, or even city design... the list goes on and on. If we continue to
use our time and energy blaming, nothing will ever change. We are facing an epidemic of
childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity and the consequences that come with that.
Topping the list are adult onset diabetes in children, heart disease, asthma, joint problems,
and sleep problems — not to mention the psychological impact this has on a child for the rest of
his or her life.
Yes, before making a change in this ever-growing (no pun intended) problem, we do need to look
at the causes. The blame game doesn't work because all it does is point fingers, rather than
rolling up our sleeves and doing something about a BIG problem.
There is one good thing about blaming. It causes us to look for a cause. As covered in a talk
on Childhood Obesity at the LowCarbiz Summit held in Washington, DC last month (May 5 thru 7, 2004),
there is no one cause for the epidemic — it is clearly multifactoral.
Here are some of what have been cited as causes of childhood and adolescent obesity:
- Family history of overweight and obesity
- Decreased activity
- Fast Food
- Portion Sizes
- Communities / Growth of suburbs
- Working and Single Parents
Yes, genes can play a role, but let's not blame it on genetics. At least not at first. It is
important to first look at the parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents. Are they heavy too?
If so, it doesn't necessarily mean it's genetic. It means it's a family affair and childhood and
adolescent overweight and obesity is a family affair. Usually the whole family is overweight because
they share similar habits. Kids learn from those around them.
Does the family have healthy eating habits? Do they keep healthy food in the house or are the
pantries full of candy, chips, soda, and juice? If so, what do you think that child is eating?
Does the family reward with food? Does the family celebrate everything with food? If so, the
children do too and expect it. Does the family eat for every occasion? Is it the habit of the
family to eat when they are happy, sad, glad and mad? If so, the children will learn to do the
Is the family active or are they couch potatoes? If the family is inactive, good chance the
children are too. How many hours a day does the family spend sitting at the TV or computer?
That's time they are not moving.
With new technology came more inactivity. Yes, the technology may be good, but it has not been
good for our physical health. We don't even get up to change the channel anymore. We have so many
more channels to choose from, we don't get up and turn off that TV too often. Kids are sitting or
lying around watching tv rather than being outside moving.
The computer is another problem. How many hours a day are the children sitting at the computer
and playing games rather being with their friends and family moving? Many of us don't even get
up to go shopping anymore; we sit and shop from the computer. Another missed opportunity to be
out with the kids being active.
We can't fully blame the fast food industry for this epidemic, but we can't forget them as a cog
in the wheel either. It's pretty tempting to drive through and pick up a happy meal that's cheap
when we're tired from a hard day's work. It seems so convenient and makes the kids happy?Right!
Did you know that if you read cookbooks written twenty years ago the portion sizes were smaller?
That's right! The same recipe for a pie twenty years ago fed 8, now it feeds 6. It's cheaper to
get the Super Big Gulp than the Medium. Sometimes at theatres, we get a free refill if we order
the Jumbo Popcorn, but not the small or medium. We want a bargain, but we forget these kinds of
tactics are no bargain at all.
Communities / Growth of Suburbs:
With suburban sprawl came weight gain. Why? Kids can't walk places anymore. There is very little
in walking distance. Living in suburbs usually means driving everywhere? to school, to the store,
and to recreational activities.
Many parents would like to see their children out and moving more but they are afraid to. We can
hardly let the kids out of our sight without fear someone will kidnap or hurt them.
Working and Single Parents:
There has been a shift in family patterns. We don't have many "stay at home" moms anymore. We have
a lot of single parents that must work to support the family. This doesn't leave the time to take
the children to the activities that keep them more active. Many people feel they can't afford
healthier foods. Many are not home enough to teach healthy habits.
So now that we've looked at some of the problems, what can we do about them?
Family history of overweight and obesity:
- Parents, realize your children learn by example. Be a good example.
- Keep healthy foods in the house.
- Eat healthy foods yourself.
- Don't tell children they can't have things, rather just don't keep unhealthy foods at home.
- Don't reward with food.
- Be more active with the children-walk, dance to music, and play with the kids.
- Turn the TV and computer off 2 hours/day.
- Be there for your kids to talk to.
- Put away the remote.
- Take the "commercial challenge", get up and move during commercials.
- Turn off the TV and computer 2 hours/day.
- Plan activities the family can do together.
- Take the children shopping rather than internet shopping.
- Get a family pet that needs to be exercised.
- Plan and prepare for more meals at home.
- Make healthier choices at the fast food restaurants.
- Don't go through the drive-thru? Walk inside.
- Order the small or medium size rather than Mega Size.
Communities / Growth of Suburbs:
- If you want to control carbs or calories, decreasing portion sizes can be the first step.
- Learn about portion sizes and measure out portion sizes until new habits are formed.
- Encourage restaurants and stores to charge less for smaller sizes.
- Realize that Supersizing and Mega-sizing is no bargain.
- Get active in the community to have more reasons to get out and move.
- Encourage your town to redesign cities for closer everyday activities like school, work,
shopping, and playing.
Working and Single Parents:
- Work with your local police department to come up with safe activities for the children.
- Work with other parents to share chaperoning the kids.
So once again, let's stop blaming. Let's do something. Blaming doesn't lead to action? Just as the kids need
to be more active, we too need to be more active — and turn this epidemic of fat kids around. Let's have
healthy children and a healthy future for us all!
- Team up with other working and single parents to take turns getting children to sports and other
activities the kids will move at.
- For the time you do have together:
- Buy, plan and prepare the healthiest choices you can afford.
- Turn off the TV and spend some active time together.
Joy Pape is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator in private practice, EnJoy Life! Health Consulting, LLC.
Under this umbrella, she partners with a professional comedian to provide health education in a business, Laugh It Off!
LLC, and also formed Designing Health, with a graphic design artist consulting clients on healthier and better looking
packaging and menus. Please send your questions/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © June 2004 Joy Pape and Low Carb Luxury
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