Monday, May 10, 2010

Obese Kids Grow Up To Be Obese Adults

I am sure that you have heard many times and even said the following phrase yourself, " our children are our future." This phrase reminds me of the movie "Children of Men" which is set in an apocolyptic future where the youngest person on the planet just died at the age of 18. There are absolutely no children on the earth due to an infertility disease spread throughout human kind. There is no hope for a future in that world. Can you imagine a world without children? It seems a very unhappy place.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), "globally, in 2010 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million. Close to 35 million of these are living in developing countries." That is a staggering statistic. Overweight children under the age of 5! This is not a good start to their young lives and puts them at a high risk to develop heart disease and diabetes at an earlier age, which could eventually lead to an early grave. The good news is nearly all of these cases of obesity can be prevented by including two critical elements in their lives, proper nutrition and increased exercise/activity.

In terms of nutrition, children, especially young children, are subjects of their environment and eat what their parents give them. Therefore it is the responsibility of the parents to provide a sound nutritional regimen for their children, which in turn educates them to eat well when they become adults. Many of us develop eating habits from the environment that we grew up in. My personal experience in America was one of cheap fast food and growing up with two other brothers who battled with me over the last piece of chicken/pizza/pie etc.. My mom did cook some great things but we didn't have a diet high in fruits and vegetables or whole wheat grains and nuts. So some of the habits that I have had to change over the years have definitely been portion control and eating fruits and vegetables at every meal. However I was very active in both sports and outdoor play. Cutting out sugary drinks such as soda is a great start to getting kids on the right track nutritionally. The sugar content in some of those drinks are off the charts and when several are consumed during the day it is a recipe for obesity. The main point that we should realize is that kids and adults need the same things nutritionally, so if a parent is eating an unhealthy diet it is more than likely that their children are as well. Kids should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. One common complaint that we hear from parents about veggies is "but my kids don't like vegetables." It takes about 12 encounters with a food before we really can decide whether we like it or not. For example, if your child doesn't like cooked broccoli then experiment with another way of cooking it. You can also add a little sauce to disguise the taste,however, by including those fruits and vegetables at every meal your kids will get a good start and the more color on the plate the better. And that doesn't mean ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise:)

Kids these days are living a more sedentary life and are moving less than their parents and grandparents did. On average children need to be moving at least 60 minutes a day in activites of regular, moderate- to vigorous-intensity. With the rise in technology we find kids sitting in front of computers and television screens more than they are outside playing a sport or on the playground. Not a whole lot is being done by schools about increasing activity. Sure, kids have the occasional P.E. class but 45 minutes once a week is not enough. Humans are built to run, jump, climb, crawl, and throw, on a daily basis and from an early age. Taking part in a sport at an early age is obviously fun for the competitive child but it is the playground where they will achieve their greatest physical benefits. What child does not enjoy going to the playground or park to play and run? It is often the parents who deny them this enjoyment because they are too tired to go outside or simply cannot be bothered. Unfortunately we live in a world where we fear for our childrens safety and it is sometimes a lot easier to have them indoors watching TV than in an environment where they may get hurt .

By instilling a sense of excitement and energy about health fitness and exercise into our children, we are helping to lay a foundation for a long and healthy life. If we as adults provide the right environment for that to happen our children will thrive as happy healthy adults and thus make the bleak future offered by the film "Children of Men" nothing but a fictional story.

FITfully Yours,

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post, sobering but encouraging at the same time. As a psychologist, I appreciate the well-reasoned insights and advice. Looking forward to reading more.