We are a country that is overweight. With obesity rates reaching over 25% in the majority of states, we have eaten ourselves into a crisis. We neglect our health even when we know better, choosing to eat quantities much too large and selections that provide little nutritional value. In addition, we opt to spend our free time doing sedentary things and spend the majority of our workdays sitting on our growing rear ends. While we can and should take responsibility for our own health, we must also take responsibility for the health of our children.
The childhood obesity rate is at an all time high as well. According to the most recent “F as in Fat 2009” publication, about 30% of children are overweight or obese. As adults it is our responsibility to nurture our youth and lead them into healthy adulthoods. However, it seems as though we may be failing them.
Studies show that overweight children grow into overweight adults. The tools we give our kids when they are under our roofs or in our classrooms are the tools they will use to shape their adulthood. This general statement applies to many things, but particularly to how they treat their bodies.
Kids learn by example and learn through structured discipline. Success starts with leading by example. When your children can see that you respect your body, they will take notice. Raising a healthy child requires that you pay close attention to what you feed them, the choices you allow them to make, and the activities you encourage. Trying to teach an overweight child the joys of physical activity and a nutritious diet is much harder than instilling that enjoyment in them before they become overweight.
Keeping physical activity fun is both important for the already healthy child and the child that struggles with their weight. Similar to the word “vegetables”, the word “exercise” often carries negative connotations for kids. Don’t stress out about making your teen run or do pushups. Simply keep them more active.
Rather than spending “family time” in front of a movie, take a walk. Go on a hike or a bike ride. Pack up a healthy picnic and spend the afternoon at the park. Instead of watching television together on weeknights, head outside and play catch or walk the dog. Your young one will appreciate your desire to be active with them more than they would appreciate commands to get fit.
If diet is where your household finds the majority of its weight issues, make a healthier diet into a family affair. Talk with your kids about the need to eat better. Enlist them to help you find healthy recipes they want to try. Giving them some decision making power will make them feel as if they are on a team rather than under a dictatorship.
Keeping your kids healthy can be a difficult task. As a parent, however, it is your responsibility. As this article from the Calgary Herald shows, excess weight in children can affect their self esteem as early as age 10. You, as a parent, teacher, or role model have a direct influence on this and a duty to do what you can to help raise healthy and well adjusted children.