We are being told by the CDC that if the current rate of childhood obesity continues, we will see the first generation ever to die earlier and sicker than the generation before them.This rise in obesity is now causing children to deal with conditions that have always been considered to be something only adults deal with. Kids are now being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, double diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Let me briefly define these last two diseases:
Double diabetes - Obesity is the main risk factor for double diabetes. This disease is diagnosed when elements of both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes co-exist in the same person. Type I diabetes: an autoimmune disease that occurs early in life. For unclear reasons, the body’s immune system begins attacking and destroying the beta cells in the pancreas needed produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is what ushers blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells to create energy. Type 2 diabetes: Usually has a later onset. Because of a combination of poor diet, lack of exercise, and too much body fat, the cells of the body become resistant to the insulin the pancreas has been making. Glucose levels remain elevated: .
Metabolic syndrome: A cluster of conditions like: increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels - that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions doesn't mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk.
Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and are more likely to be obese as adults. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Just as difficult as the physical problems brought on by excess weight are the social and psychological problems. Young people who are overweight deal with bullying, shame, embarrassment and poor self-esteem. They are also more likely to report feeling lonely and depressed than a normal weight young person.
Carrying extra weight is hard on our bodies, but it is especially hard on children whose little bodies haven’t fully grown and matured. Growth and development are intricate and specific processes that require healthy fueling (nutrition) and adequate movement of a child. When a young person is carrying extra weight the normal functions and development of their physical, mental and social health are all at risk of being compromised.
There is not one single determinate to the rise in childhood obesity rates. Numerous factors contribute to this problem. Consider these:
-The standard serving size of many fast foods has gone up by 25%, this does not include the biggie or super sizes.
-Soda consumption has increased.
-School physical activity has decreased.
-An increased number of children are going to empty homes where their baby sitter is food, the computer, video games or television.
-Teachers and other school employees use high sugar and high fat food as incentives and rewards.
-Schools now sell candy, cookie dough and sugary coffee drinks to raise money for their events
-Kids engage in more sedentary activity due to cell phones, computers & satellite television.
-Stress levels have gone up for everyone. Stress contributes to the production of cortisol which makes us store belly fat.
-Divorce rates have increased and studies have shown that children from divorced homes are more likely to be overweight.
What are we to do? First we all have to realize that if we want to help our children get healthy and get rid of that extra weight the whole family will have to be involved, even those family members who aren’t concerned about their own weight.
When one person in our family is struggling we all have the opportunity to help them. This means eliminating temptation. Just because you have the ability to stop at one serving of cookies or chips doesn’t mean your child has this ability. No amount of nagging, warning or shaming is as effective as just eliminating the temptation. Don’t even bring them into your home. Next, stop buying sodas! This will improve everyone’s health and help you save money too. Get active yourself and let your kids see it is a value in your life. Find a physical activity that your child CAN succeed at. Many overweight kids don’t like the vigorous activities of running and jumping, these activities cause them great discomfort and they also feel embarrassed by their bodies. Get active as a family. Activities can include lifting weights, turning on music and dancing in your garage or living room, taking the dog for a daily walk, skating, riding bikes together, swimming, or hiking. Remember kids don’t have to be athletes to be healthy.
Next, stop misusing food. Our grandparents, our parents and other adults passed on their misuse of food to us and we are passing it on to our children. Food is meant to fuel our bodies so they can move, and develop. Food is not meant to be a band-aid for a hurt knee or hurt feelings. Food is not meant to be our sole source of entertainment, encourage your child to engage in any hobby that doesn’t involve food. Also remember that food is not a baby sitter, or a cure for depression or anxiety. Make the decision to have the misuse of food stop with you. Teach your children by your example the importance of eating healthy foods when you are hungry….not out of emotions, bad habits or boredom. Teach them proper serving sizes, take them shopping with you and let them develop a healthy menu and shopping list with you. Give them your undivided attention on a regular basis and ample time to share their fears, worries and celebrations with you.
Finally, let you child know they are more than just a number on the scale. Good physical health is not measured by body weight alone. What we should aim for in our children is good physical health…not skinny. Let your child know that although they might not be happy with the number they are looking at, it is a temporary number and that number can come down with some changes. Let them know you are on their side and you will help them with this. You can learn to develop a healthy lifestyle together. Reaffirm you love and pride in your child everyday. A child who feels loved and safe at home is more likely to be successful at any endeavor, not just weight loss.
Kids on The Move is a new program for kids who are struggling with their weight and their self-esteem. The class will consist of a variety of fun physical activities and an educational component where parents & children will talk and learn about the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle and how to do it.
If you would like to start a 6 week program in your community or at your church or gym contact me at email@example.com