How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
The statistics are sobering: In the United States, childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. How important is the issue? According to Dr. David S. Ludwig "Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the history of the United States to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents.” It is estimated that the lifespan of overweight children may be two to five years shorter than their parents, and they are more likely to experience a multitude of negative health issues throughout their lives as well.
Is it imperative, therefore, that the issue of overweight children and adolescents be addressed immediately and the trend reversed. While it may seem like common sense, overweight children are at a significant risk of becoming overweight adults. Since it is clear that once a person has gained excess weight, losing it becomes increasingly difficult - One of the keys to helping prevent obesity in adults is to prevent excess weight gain from occurring during childhood.
Two of the main factors contributing to obesity in children are lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits. These are both lifestyle factors, well within our control. Children are moving less and expending less energy, while eating increasingly unhealthy, processed foods that contain more calories. The scientific math is simple: Weight gain is the result of more calories in and less calories out.
So what can be done to help reverse the current trend of the rising rates of childhood obesity? I believe the solutions are in fact straightforward, that, like the principle of Occam’s razor, the simplest solution tends to be the right one.
When it comes to childhood obesity the solution starts at home, and it starts with the parents.
What We Can Do As Parents
- Stock the Home With Healthy Options
As hard as it may be for parents to admit it, children are not the ones shopping for their food or driving themselves to fast-food restaurants. I understand that parents are extremely busy and the unhealthy options are oftentimes the quickest and easiest, but it is up to us to set our children up for success. Fill your home with a wide selection of healthy foods from which they can choose. Make them readily available so they can be grabbed easily, such as cutting up fresh fruit and vegetables and leaving them out in bowls in the kitchen.
- Be Positive Role Models
This is the number one way in which to combat the obesity epidemic in children. I have two young boys and they are my now my main motivation to lead as positive a lifestyle as possible, including both eating healthy and exercising regularly. Our children look to us as role models, two of the most powerful ones in their lives, emulating our behaviors, both the good as well as the bad. Be the inspiration and example your children need to live their very best lives.
While teaching our children about good nutrition and getting them to move more are both important, parents need to accept the fact that we ultimately hold the keys to our children’s health and well-being. The great news? There is no greater motivation for us to exercise and eat right.
And not only will we reap the rewards, our children will as well. For a lifetime.