Since 1980, childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have more than doubled, and adolescent obesity rates have tripled. Nationally, more than 17 percent of kids ages 6 through 19 are obese. Even more are overweight but not yet considered obese.
Studies have shown that those kids who buy lunch at school are more likely to be overweight. Neenah is hoping to promote a junk-food-free zone at school.As regular readers of my newsletter know, I’m very concerned about the exploding problem of obesity. And I’m determined to help turn this deadly trend around.
While I am certainly not a fan of governmental regulations, there is a proper place for government in protecting our safety. You certainly would not want your child’s school to allow alcohol or cigarettes in the lunchroom. So I believe it is a great step in the right direction to safeguard your children’s health by banning junk food.
Not only will sweets adversely affect their health, they will clearly negatively influence their ability to learn and isn’t that why they are in school in the first place?
The Obesity Epidemic is Claiming Younger and Younger Victims
Research calculations indicate that by mid-century, the growing risk of serious obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, could lower the current average life expectancy of about 78 years by as much as five years. This statistic is a reversal of a trend that in 2002 promised a life span of 100 years by mid-century.
Even more concerning for parents: the unprecedented increase in childhood obesity may have already shortened children’s lives by anywhere from four to nine months.
Current obesity statistics are mind-blowing:
- Two-thirds of America's adults are overweight or obese
- As many as 30 percent of U.S. children are overweight
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled within the past 25 years
- Within the past 20 years, childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold
If this epidemic is not reversed we will, for the first time in history, see children living shorter lives than their parents. I am convinced that we will wake up long before that.
The Challenge of Making Good Choices
As I read through the Live Science article I thought, “How far should schools go in making decisions about what your children do and don’t eat?”
The article highlights a trend that is simultaneously good, and bad.
The good news is that in an effort to curb the epidemic of childhood obesity, some school systems are taking the bull by the horns when it comes to student access to poor food and drink choices. School boards like the one mentioned in the article are taking steps to eliminate the temptation of deadly sugary beverages (especially soda) and foods on campus.
The bad news? Simply removing temptation doesn’t help your children learn to make their own healthy choices.
As parents know, children learn most of their health habits at home. Moms and dads must lead by example and teach kids the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, and emotional health.
Facing the Truth: Is Your Child Obese?
Surprisingly, many parents don’t realize their child is overweight or obese. According to researchers, this is because we are so used to seeing overweight children that we don’t recognize the problem. And it’s not even a matter of denial, as one-third of mothers and over half of the fathers in a study thought their obese child was a normal weight.
Five Life-Changing Steps You Can Take to Help Your Overweight Child
- Replace sugary juices and soft drinks with pure water.
Children can easily cut down on the amount of sugar they eat by eliminating soda and juice and only drinking water. This step alone can have a dramatic effect on your child’s weight and health, since every soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage consumed increases the risk of obesity by a whopping 60 percent.
- Learn your child’s Nutritional Type™ and plan meals accordingly.
It’s important for parents to encourage their children to eat healthy, nutritious foods, but this does not necessarily mean low-calorie diets or not allowing children to eat when they’re hungry. Children need calories and nutrients to grow and develop -- just make sure to encourage healthy foods geared for your child’s nutritional type, and bypass junk and processed foods.
A word about grains and sugars. Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates or sugars generates a rapid rise in your child’s blood glucose level. To adjust for this rise, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers your child’s glucose (sugar) level. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone, which is used to store the excess calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat.
Insulin, stimulated by the excess carbohydrates in overabundant consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is responsible for your overweight child’s bulging tummy and fat rolls.
Even worse, high insulin levels suppress two other important hormones -- glucagons and growth hormones -- that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development, respectively. So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off the body's ability to lose that fat.
- Decrease or eliminate TV time and remove the TV from your child’s bedroom.
TV is a destructive influence on children. Not only does it encourage inactivity, but it also exposes them to commercials promoting worthless foods. Just as you don’t want your child exposed to ads for cigarettes during Saturday morning cartoons, neither should your kids be bombarded by non-stop commercials for sugary foods and snacks.
Exercise is extremely important for all children. Your overweight or obese child needs at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and major studies have shown that 60 minutes a day is best. Any activity that gets your child up and away from the television set, video game or computer is a good idea. Start out with a daily walk with your child, and then gradually increase the intensity to include activities such as jogging and using an elliptical machine.
- Help your child deal with emotional eating.
Emotions play a major role in childhood obesity and often, weight loss efforts get sabotaged by emotional eating. Your child may also have a hard time giving up junk food snacks. This is where the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) comes in. EFT can be profoundly helpful in alleviating not only food cravings, but also the underlying emotional challenges, such as low self-esteem, that can lead your child to eat unhealthy food or overeat. For more information on EFT, check out my free 25-page EFT manual.
More Tips for Creating a Healthy Eating Environment
Ultimately, teaching your child the importance of healthy foods and exercise -- not restricting their food intake or freedom of choice -- is the key to maintaining health. With that in mind, here are some tips to foster a healthy view of food and self-esteem in your child.
- Refrain from making jokes about your child’s weight, even if no harm is intended
- Explain the health risks of being overweight to your child, but avoid comparing your overweight child to other children, including thinner siblings
- Cook healthy meals for your family, and let your child be involved in making dinner, but avoid making your child eat different food than the rest of the family
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices and praise them when they do instead of putting your child down about weight or eating habits
- Instead of using food as a reward or punishment, have healthy snacks available at all times, and explain to your child the benefits they’ll get from eating these fresh, whole foods