Thursday, February 24, 2005


Childhood Obesity: Absolutely Preventable

I have been hearing so much in the media lately about childhood obesity, I thought maybe I would weigh in on the subject and present a few facts, some opinions, and maybe pose some questions.

Childhood obesity today is becoming a very serious issue. It can have long-term health and social consequences. Childhood obesity in the US and Canada is now considered epidemic. In the US, between 1976-2000 childhood obesity increased from 7% of children to 15.3% of children, and to me really seems to be noticeable amongst female children. In Canada, the figure today is close to 20%. Only 1% of childhood obesity can be linked to "glandular", or hormonal causes. We are seeing the onset of Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes in children, and this is making parents very concerned and looking for specific answers and solutions. Well, guess what? Parents have really created the problem, but they are also the solution.

In the last 30 years or so, more and more mothers have entered the workforce. In doing so, they had to become more independent, and one of the ways to do so was to receive a Driver's License. The number of Moms driving today has steadily increased every year. Also, with another wage-earner in a family, as well as another driver, sometimes a second vehicle was added to the household, this also increasing every year.

With this new-found independence, Moms have taken away a lot of the self-reliance from their children. It used to be that if you wanted to go to soccer practice, you "ran" to the soccer field, usually meeting up with your buddies along the way and arriving together. Not anymore, kids are "delivered". If you wanted to play hockey, you dressed warm, called your buddies, threw your gear on your back, and walked to and from the rink shooting snow clumps back and forth across the street. Not anymore. The town I live in is situated on 1 sq. mi. and I would say that maybe 10% of the team walks to the rink. I have seen kids wait to be picked up for a ride home from the rink for 20 minutes or longer, when their house can be seen from the rink, and it would take 5 min. to walk home. The kids don't even dress properly for winter, as they know they will get a ride everywhere.

Another item relegated to the past is a healthy lunch. Whatever happened to "ham, cheese, and lettuce on rye", with an apple and a banana, and a can of fruit juice, packed by Mom, and brought from home? All the kids today are off to the store at lunchtime with money to buy "fried" chicken, "fried" perogies, "fried" burgers, "fried" wedges, washed down with a soda pop.

Also, with the advent of computers, video games, and "1000" TV channels, our kids are being further "sapped" of any motivation and initiative. They will sit for hours in front of a screen, exercising their thumbs, and not much else.

So, what do we do as parents? Be PARENTS!! Set the boundaries and parameters between child and parent. Be stern and straightforward, and make some rules. Kids can walk to and from sporting activities. This is good exercise, and teaches responsibility and self-reliance to the child. In a city centre, parents might be concerned about a child's safety walking, and that is totally understandable for security reasons. Limit the TV and Nintendo time for a child. These 2 activities are turning our kids into marshmallows. MAKE the kids play outside, especially on weekends. I remember this from my childhood, as we were always outside. This will also make a kid more creative, as they will invent games, and revive the old pastimes of snow-fort building, tag, road hockey, sliding, Tarzan-swing building, tree-climbing (do kids climb trees anymore? I was a monkey as a kid), and a numerous list of other activities. If living on a farm, make sure the child has regular chores. Great for exercise and teaching responsibility.

In short, basically what I am saying, is let kids once again be kids. Don't live your life tied to the schedule of your kids' hockey practice. Kids need to be allowed to experience independence, and they need the life-prolonging exercise that comes with it. We all may think we are doing our children a favour by catering to them, but if later in life they experience health problems due to childhood inactivity and poor eating habits, it will have all been for naught. Therefore, do your children a favour, tell them to "go OUTSIDE and PLAY"!!!

Here are some "tips" on returning children to a healthier weight and lifestyle:

1/- You can make changes to help your kids eat healthier. Limit portion sizes. Bake foods instead of frying them. Don't order French fries if you don't want your kids ordering French fries. Don't buy "junk food" if you don't want your kids sneaking it. For snacking, give your child fruits and vegetables.

2/- Get active. Plan family activities. Go skating, hiking, biking, walking, running, tobogganing. Have an after-dinner walk. Exercise doesn't have to be hard work. Cutting the grass with a push-mower and cleaning the garage are all good options.

3/- Set eating times. Don't let your kid eat every time he/she wants to, and don't let them eat continuously in front of the TV or in the vehicle. When your child continuously asks for unhealthy snacks (chips, cookies, candies), be a PARENT and say "NO". Don't eliminate these snacks entirely, just limit them extremely.

4/- Don't buy your kid pizza and pop to celebrate good grades at school or whatever achievement he/she has made. Take them bowling.

5/- Limit TV, video game, and computer time to no more than about an hour a day. More time could be spent on the computer if it is used for school work.

In closing, these are just a few ideas. Use creative thinking in coming up with your own solutions. As you can see, the "cure" for childhood obesity rests in the hands of the parents. Set a healthy regimen of exercise and proper eating habits for your child, so that poor childhood activities don't create health problems during your child's adult years, and shorten their life expectancy.

Another form of exercise for children is "Extreme Tobogganing". Do so with caution..... Posted by Hello

This young fellow is in fine health, growing up on the trapline and learning the ways of his ancestors. Childhood obesity was never a problem for people "living off the land" before..... Posted by Hello

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