Childhood obesity – Baggy pants – Nose rings and a – Tummy roll?
Each generation of youth has its fashions and “I’ll do it my way” signs on their clothing, jewelry, or hairstyles. But one trend is setting this younger set apart: obesity. More and more of our children and youth are getting “bellied,” flabby, and just plain fat at an age when they should be in their prime.
Why? I think the answer is obvious. Junk food is too available to our youth. Mochas and burgers are usually only a 5-minute drive from the high school, so teens have access to empty calories all day long. To make matters worse, cafeterias offer fast food type meals since they’re “going to eat them anyway,” not to mention vending machines display their impulse foods in many nooks and crannies of school hallways.
How do we fight this? How can a parent help their children avoid the slippery slide into poor health and obesity? Fortunately, we are seeing more and more cooperation in schools to eliminate vending machines and make better menus for cafeterias. But the first, better obviously the choice is to teach them EARLY to make better eating choices. Help them see the benefits of healthy eating habits while they are young. As they get older, talk to them about heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. and how they are the direct result of regular poor food choices.
When I was young, I remember seeing drunks slumped on the side of the street in downtown. My dad commented that the poor man made too many bad decisions and chose alcohol as a solution to the problems in his life. Alcohol has its way in a man’s life, slowly killing him unless he takes a radical turn.
So what does this have to do with junk food? It’s so relevant it’s scary. Doctors are finally making progress in both the research and diagnosis of diabetes (and the other big problem: heart disease). Clearly these diseases are the direct result of our regular intake of junk calories. Sugar and its white cousins are implicated as the underlying causes of diabetes and heart disease, the second cousins of adult obesity. Sugar is slowly killing us just as surely as alcohol is killing drunks, unless we make a radical change… and STOP eating the food that is killing us.
Why don’t parents do the same for their children and their careless food choices? Why don’t we take them to the hospital intensive care unit and long-term care wards to see the end results of eating too much sugar? Hey, we don’t even need to go that far. Fat, panting people surround us when we do our shopping. Why not point out (discreetly) that they, like the alcoholic, are headed for certain and miserable death?
Why not? Because we as parents are becoming victims of these diseases and either due to ignorance or carelessness we suffer from early or advanced symptoms of these diseases. Junk food, the empty calories that are making our children chubby, are the very forms of food that we ourselves are addicted to. It is difficult to admit that we are the cause of our children’s illness; that we are the ones who need to make a change – first.
But we can change! And we must do it for our children’s sake as well as our own. Let’s start by making better decisions when it comes to eating both at home and on the go. You know you’ll be hungry when you leave home, so plan to pack some good food options. Almonds, dried fruit such as raisins, fresh fruit, a small cooler with cheese sticks, bottled water or juices. Even an iced sandwich or veggies are a great option. If you know you want something sweet, plan to bring cookies you’ve made at home or granola bars you’ve bought ahead of time.
The solutions are easy. The discipline is hard. Take one step at a time toward better food choices. Begin today to take responsibility for improving the health of your children and youth. Give them a chance to live a long and healthy lifespan.