It was bad enough hearing almost daily that obesity in adults is a growing problem, now our children are the focal point. Yes, moms and dads, the research is in. In a study conducted by Weight Watchers International Inc., and the American Health Foundation, 25% of American children are now officially overweight, and the youngest are especially at risk. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) found that 14% of six to 11 year olds weighed more than they should, as did 12% of 12-17 year olds. In addition, another ADA study suggests the half of obese adolescents will become fat adults.
This is not a passing phase, obesity in children is increasing daily and with the increase comes a slew of health issues ? the prevalent ones being diabetes and breathing difficulties.
Karen Miller-Kovach, R.D., chief scientist for Weight Watchers states “lack of exercise accounts for more than 50% of the problem, just 30% of the problem is due to overeating or choosing the wrong types of foods.” Instead, experts point to the same things I have been saying for the past 10 years, cuts in school physical education programs, less time spent outdoors and more time playing video games or sitting in front of the computer or television. Not riding bikes around the neighborhood due to safety issues.
As I mention in Keep Kids Fit, with the cuts in physical education, after school programs and just the general lack of activity by our children you need to be creative about getting your family more active. One way is get the whole family out and about is to take walks after dinner, and if you have a pet, bring him/her along, because sad to say along with obesity in humans, so also go our “furkids”. Have your children do chores, like vacuum, mow the lawn, rake leaves, pick up their room. Have a dance night. Let the kids pick the music (I know you don’t like their music, but think of it this way, our parents didn’t like ours either). Play more physical games, like charades, twister, kick ball, soft ball. I love bowling, have a bowling night with the family or get your children interested in a league. Not only will they be more active, they will make some new friends in the process and learn how to become part of a team effort!
Also, don’t forget, while activity is important so is healthy eating. I know the study said activity was important, but you still have to eat healthy. Fast foods once in a while is one thing, however, making them a habit can be disastrous. Drop the sugar filled fruit juices, and give them water or caffeine free, diet soda (for older children). Have them take their daily vitamin along with a glass of OJ. One thing too many parents tend to do is to fill their kids up with fruit juices that are way too high in sugar. Brew your own ice tea and limit the sugar (use a sugar substitute, like Splenda). Same thing with lemonade, make your own. Get them used to water, it is good for them and fills them up in the process. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting 100% fruit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day for 1 to 6 year olds and to 7 to 12 ounces a day for those ages 7 to 18.
A study reported in the January 2005 issue of Prevention, by Barry M. Popkin, PhD., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina found “Liquid sugar from soda, juice and fruit drinks is the biggest source of sugar consumption”. His study of more than 73,000 children and adults found that between ages 2 and 18, kids drink 135% more calories in sweetened beverages than you probably did as a child.”
Most important is that you don’t make your children uncomfortable. Don’t talk in terms of weight, but in terms of a healthy lifestyle and having more energy. Realize it is going to take time for your children and family to adjust to the new healthy lifestyle you want to put in place. Foremost, if you want to be a good role model, practice what you preach!