A few short years ago child obesity was a rare thing but today it is all too common around the world and especially in the United States, which now has one of the highest rates of child obesity of any country in the world. There are of many reasons for this problem, but here are the three main causes:
1. A lack of exercise.
When I think back to my own childhood it was common for kids to spend most of their free time out of the house running around all over the neighborhood with their friend on their bikes or skateboards or playing games like basketball and football. We rarely spent any time sitting around at home and it was a case of getting home from school, dropping off your schoolbag, grabbing a quick glass of fresh milk and perhaps a cookie and then heading out to play.
Today however we have seen two major changes when it comes to the level of activity of our children. The first is that we have become extremely protective of our children and restrict where they can go to keep them away from danger and what they can do to prevent them from getting hurt. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is something which we can argue in its own right but, as far as we are concerned here, there is no doubt that this has resulted in a dramatic drop in the level of physical activity of your children. The second major change has been the arrival of such things as home computers and video games which have turned a whole generation of kids into couch potatoes.
2. The availability of junk food.
Hate it or love it junk food in the form of such things as hamburgers, pizzas, ice cream and potato chips are everywhere today and, while we used to eat such things as an occasional 'treat', these foods have now become the staple diet for many children. When I was a kid my mom used to send me off to school with a healthy packed lunch of perhaps a sandwich on whole wheat bread and an apple or orange, but today kids are given money to buy lunch in the school cafeteria and more often than not choose something like pizza and french fries.
Junk food may be convenient, and certainly tastes good to a kid, but it is invariably greasy, high in sodium or salt and extremely high in sugar and it adds up to a lot of calories (calorie calculator) very quickly. Vending machine are everywhere today selling chocolate bars and bags of chips and, perhaps worst of all, high sugar soft drinks (which make up as much as twenty five percent of the daily calorie intake for many young adults today) and also available at every turn.
3. Busy parents.
We all lead busy lives these days and that often means that the practice of sitting down as a family for a healthy breakfast before starting the day and for a home cooked meal in the evening has all but disappeared in many households. Indeed, in a lot of cases, parents no longer know how to cook anything other than scrambled eggs and so it is often a case of picking up dinner on the way home from work or ordering in. And what do you pick up or order in? You guessed it, pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken or some other high fat, high salt, high sugar junk meal.
But the problem goes even further than this of course because not only are we no longer cooking healthy meals for our kids, but we are also not taking the time to educate them about food choices or to supervise what they are eating. We send them out in the morning with money in their pocket to buy food during the day but leave it entirely up to them to decide what they spend their money on.
The problem of child obesity is already at epidemic proportions and is getting worse by the day but the real problem is that we as parents are often causing the problem, or at least doing little if anything to solve it. It doesn't take a genius to find the answer to the problem of child obesity and it is time that more parents started taking more responsibility for the upbringing of their kids.
Is It My Fault That My Child Is Obese?
Whether or not it is your fault that your child is obese is a very difficult question to answer although, in most cases, it is probably true to say that you are at least in part to blame. What is true however is that it is certainly your responsibility as a parent to lead to fight to solve the problem. But where do your start?
Most children will follow the lead of their parents and so your starting point must be to make sure that you are following a healthy diet. If you are not eating properly and are existing largely on junk foods and snacks then your child will be eating junk food and snacks, on the one hand because he is simply following your lead and on the other hand because that is probably all that is available in the house.
There is nothing wrong with snacks and junk food as long as they form only a small part of your diet. For example, ordering in a pizza or stopping off at a hamburger restaurant is fine, as long as you are doing it as a treat once in a while and not eating that way seven days a week. The vast majority of fast food and snacks including pizzas, hamburgers, kebabs, take-away Chinese food and microwave popcorn are high in fat, high in salt, high in sugar and have very little nutritional value.
So, if you cannot already do so, learn to cook and ensure that at least five days out of the week you sit down as a family for a healthy meal, planning your meals to give everyone a good balance of low fat and highly nutritional meals including plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Do not forget too that, while you can change your own eating habits and get your children to follow your lead at home, you also need to monitor what they are eating when they are away from home. This is not always easy but the answer is very often simply one of education. If your child is going to be eating in the school cafeteria then talk to him about buying healthy foods rather than pizza and french fries. It is also often worth talking to the school as a growing number of schools now have 'healthy eating' programs and are developing various plans which allow parents to monitor their kids eating habits at school.
The other side of the diet equation is exercise and this again is an area in which you as a parent have a role to play. As a society we have become obsessed with the safety of our kids and are afraid to let them out on their own for fear that some pedophile is lurking on the corner waiting to snatch them or that they might fall off their bike and injure themselves or catch some deadly airborne disease. Now, we should not of course make light of what can be very real dangers, but we must also keep them in perspective and realize that we cannot protect our children completely from the dangers of the real world and then expect them to be able to go out into the world and stand on their own two feet the moment they grow up and leave home.
Again the answer here lies largely in education and in setting into place systems which allow you to monitor their activity and give you peace of mind. Teaching children about the dangers that surround them and how to cope with them is far better than simply shielding them from them them. Simple plans such as letting your kids go out to play as long as they take a friend (or group of friends) along, giving them a cell phone and having them phone in at regular intervals or giving them a gps tracking watch to wear are just some of the many things you can do to keep your children safe, while also encouraging them to get out and take some exercise.
Parenting is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is also hard work and when it comes to tackling the problem of child obesity you will need to spend time and do some work to ensure that your child eats properly and takes the right amount of exercise. Of course adjusting your own diet and getting yourself up and running around a bit more will not do you any harm either.
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