September is National Childhood Obesity month, and I must admit that I’m conflicted. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we are putting focus on this important issue, but I’m sad that we need to focus on it at all!
Childhood obesity is the health challenge of our generation. How bad is it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. In 2008 (the most recent year that comprehensive statistics are available), nearly 20 percent of children ages 6-11 are now obese, and more than 33 percent of children and adolescents aged 6-19 were either overweight or obese.
In fact, studies predict that, unless we do something substantial on this issue – and soon – for the first time in our nation’s history, our children may well live shorter lives than their parents! Even worse, it’s likely that today’s children will suffer from more heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers, sleep apnea, and liver disease. Obesity raises the risk of all these conditions.
There is a significant cost to society too. At a time when we are grappling with soring medical costs, universal health care, and the possible restructuring of Medicare, childhood obesity is likely to drive medical costs up in the future. In 2008, the total medical care costs related to obesity for U.S. adults were estimated to be $147 Billion! And, people who were obese had medical costs that were $1,429 higher on average than people of normal body weight. Unfortunately, preliminary numbers find that the rate of childhood obesity has gotten worse since these numbers were compiled, so they can be expected to rise in the future.
So, what can we do to reverse this trend? Here are 5 things you can start doing today with your own children or with just about any kids in your life:
#1: Move more. Children don’t need to be enrolled in “exercise boot camp” to be healthy. They just need to move. Have them go outside and play with friends rather than sitting in front of the TV. Plan family outings that involve something physical like a trip to the zoo (lots of walking), the beach (running, swimming) or lunch at a local park (running, playing).
#2: Eat less. We tend to eat all the time, and this is especially true for kids. Bored? Eat. Unhappy? Eat. Happy? Eat. As parents, we need to stop using food as a reward for good behavior and make sure our kids have something interesting to occupy their attention (think “non-electronic”). When I was younger, I can remember my mom having a whole list of things for me to do, like cleaning out the garage, putting away my toys, raking leaves, etc. Whenever I said, “Mom, I’m bored!” she would look at her list and say, “Great. Here’s what I need help with!”
#3: Eat better. Along with eating less, we need to make sure our kids eat better. One study found that the most consumed vegetable in the U.S. is potatoes (mainly in the form of French fries). Make sure you have healthy snacks available like fresh fruit, yogurt, and cut up veggies that are easy to grab and go!
#4: Teach basics. You don’t need a degree in nutrition to teach kids about the basics of healthy eating. You can teach them to read food package labels and make healthy choices. You can teach them the difference between fresh and processed foods, or the difference between calorie-dense and nutrient-dense foods. Small changes can have a big impact over time.
#5: Take responsibility. We too often blame someone else for problems we face. Childhood obesity is “blamed” on food manufacturers, government regulation, peer pressure, or misleading advertising. These certainly all play a part, but in the end, we are each responsible for what we eat. Help your kids take responsibility by challenging them to make healthy choices each day.
Childhood obesity is the health challenge of our generation. But, by taking small steps, you can have a positive impact, and change the course of future generations.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at www.HealthFamilyFuture.com. Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
You may also want to read: Eat Right: Don’t Let It in the House, Childhood Obesity: Education is Essential, Childhood Obesity = Poor Math Skills