Today, USA Today published an article expounding on the need for parents to role-model good wellness for their children as a preventive measure against childhood obesity. This is a well known approach to this problem, but more and more empirical evidence is being uncovered to support this idea as a unavoidable approach.
The American Medical Association found that between adolescence and 30 years old, heavy boys and girls are very likely to become morbidly (i.e. a key contributor to death) obese. What does this have to do with parents? Well, mainly, if a child is heavy as an adolescence, this weight accumulated during the elementary school years. Consequently, the problem started sometime during the early childhood (0-Age 8) years. Who’s introduced the child to food? the parents/guardians. Who’s responsible for feeding the child? The parents/guardians. Who’s responsible for primarily monitoring and educating the child about their eating habits? Guess who? The parents/guardians. If the parents eat McDonald’s everyday, then guess who also picks up that habit? If the parents munch of chips and candy in between meals, then…well, you get the idea. We grown folks who have children have to do better.
33% of children between the ages of 0 and 8 are overweight (Lee, Lim, Zoellner, Bert, Sandretto, Sohn, Ismail, 2010). That’s frightening. If we combine this idea with the USA Today article, a very large portion of those children are in danger of digging part of their grave BEFORE they reach the age of 30. None of us want that, right?
All of us need to make better health choices. Let’s be realistic now. Everyone is not going to (or need to) run a marathon and be a triathlete. My grandparents just lived well and clean. They ate as healthy as they could, did whatever exercising that they could, and did not abuse drugs. Both lived into their 90’s. We can teach our children to do that, too.
In terms of our nutrition, above all else, we MUST teach children that they cannot eat anything that they want as much as they want. I have learned over the past 12 or so months to watch my carbohydrate (among other things) intake. Too many carbs is the culprit. We eat too much pasta, refined bread, refined rice, cookies, cakes, and starches (that includes our beloved baked potatoes). It is ok to have some of that stuff, but if we do not eat them in moderation (i.e. “maybe this week, but not next week” for example) then how can we expect our children to do so?
In terms of exercise, do your best. So many people and experts that I know tell me “people make excuses that they do not have any time.” Here’s some front page news: SOME PEOPLE TRULY DO NOT HAVE TIME. I know some friends who have to get up 4am in the morning to drive three hours to get to their 7am teaching jobs. They work until 4pm (on the clock), then have to stay after school for other necessary obligations. They hopefully leave work at 5pm to try to beat it back home at 8:00 pm…so they can stay up another two hours to make sure lesson plans, etc. are straight for the next day. This happens five days a week? When can they exercise? Well, one friend tries to walk as much as she can, especially on Saturday and Sunday. That may be all she can do. This is just one story, everyone. I myself try to run every morning at 5:30 am-6:00 am, but it can be tough because I have to be out the door for my job at 6:30 am if I am to get there on time.
The take home message to parents/guardians about modeling wellness to prevent obesity in their children: do the best you can today, then get up each day trying to do better than the previous day. Make sure, though, that you are honestly and truly doing your best.
Lee, J., Lim, S., Zoellner, J., Burt, B., Sandretto, A., Sohn, W., et al. (2010). Don't Children Grow Out of Their Obesity? Weight Transitions in Early Childhood. Clinical Pediatrics, 49(5), 466-469. doi:10.1177/0009922809356466.