For Your Child
The 1-2-3 / ABC’s of Childhood Obesity
Dissecting a big fat problem
-Laura Fenamore, mylifecompass.com
Recently, one of my clients called me – she was hugely upset. Her eight-year-old daughter was being tested for diabetes. And while my client (and her spouse) have struggled with their weight for years, the IDEA that their little girl might be overweight AND SICK was horrifying. As I mentored her through the discussion, and helped her to see that she wasn’t paralyzed – she finally felt safe enough to admit that her beautiful little daughter was twenty-three pounds overweight.
If you Google childhood obesity, you literally get 2,360,000 hits. It’s obvious that we put a huge amount of effort into looking at this issue, but how effective are we, when the numbers just go up and up, year after year? Let’s step back and dissect this issue in three very real and useful ways – the problem, the effects (bullying, self-esteem and overall health) and the solution.
#1 The Problem: Quite simply, our kids eat the wrong food and don’t move enough to use it up. When we consider everyday additives, like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) though, they’re behind the eight ball from the beginning. HFCS not only adds an inordinate amount of calories for a product with NO nutritional upside, it also creates the phenomenon of craving – setting up even our littlest kids to binge eat. (See Childhood Obesity Basics, By Vincent Iannelli, M.D., About.com November 30, 2008)
Another part of the problem? Definitely fast food. Let’s face it, busy parents are often doing all they can to make ends meet and provide loving homes, so what harm is there if McDonald’s is the once (or twice) a week treat? Well, one problem is that we need to at LEAST stop calling it a treat. Call it a standby – call it, “uh oh, we’re in a jam,” call it fast-food Friday, but don’t call it a treat. An apple is a treat. Peanut Butter on wheat thins is a treat. Learning to re-language our discussions around food is vitally important to creating healthier families.
#2 The Effects: The sad truth is this: Our kids are getting bigger and bigger, while their self-esteem plummets. As a body image mastery mentor, I truly believe that we are all perfect and on a life journey to love ourselves from the inside out! But that journey is profoundly easier when we are HEALTHY. Imagine a child too heavy to run and play – too burdened by low self-esteem to enjoy their childhood. As any overweight adult can tell you, the heaviest burden is definitely not the pounds.
#3 The Solution: Okay, obviously the solution needs to be far more reaching than can be addressed in one article. But let’s just consider the basics – what we can implement right now.
a) MOVE. Move every single day. Move in a dedicated, disciplined way WITH your kids. The message is simple. We eat everyday and we move EVERY day. We change our clothes, we brush our teeth, we go to school, and we MOVE. And make it as fun as you can. Walk. Throw the heavy ball. Ride a bike. Dance. Even cleaning their room can be a fun exercise if you do it together (and have the added benefit of a clean room!).
b) Kick fast food to the curb. No exceptions. Instead, create alternative quick menu choices WITH your kids. A quick Google search will net you many, many healthy, kid-friendly recipes (homemade fat-free grilled cheese on whole wheat anybody?).
c) Most importantly, be sure to address your child’s weight from the outside in – AND the inside out. Weight is math. It is not a statement of value. Your kid is valuable and beautiful – those things are not up for debate. HEALTHY is your goal. From the “inside out,” be sure that there isn’t an emotional piece to your child’s weight. Are they eating compulsively? Are they being teased?
d) Definitely ask for help on this one – their school guidance counselor might be a great place to start. There’s probably even a support group right in your area just for kids (check your local gym and hospital).
Remember, no matter what you do, the worst thing you can do is NOTHING. Our kids are our most vital natural resource, starting them out HEALTHY and FIT is the very least we can do.