Tackling Childhood Obesity: Simple Steps for a Healthier Future

Being physically healthy should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. Without health, you truly have nothing, for once health fails you lose the rest anyway. Despite millions of article on healthy diet and lifestyle, high-profile television shows like “The Biggest Loser,” and infomercials for healthy food prep products, fitness machines, and fitness clubs all over every town and in all forms, people—Americans especially—are not healthy. In fact, there is an epidemic of obesity among children and young adults that needs to be addressed now.

Obesity during childhood is a big problem. One in three children is either deemed overweight or obese. Sure, we can point to too much television or computer or handheld gaming time, not enough exercise, poor school lunches, and the easy availability of fast food, but no matter where the blame is placed, the problem is still front and center and needs to be addressed.

Overweight children who do not get control of their weight can easily become obese children, teens or young adults. And this can lead directly to other very serious health concerns, like type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and death. In fact, a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, found that “Class III obesity is associated with substantially elevated rates of total mortality, with most of the excess deaths due to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and major reductions in life expectancy compared with normal weight.”

Those who rely on their children’s pediatricians are either not listening, not heeding advice, or simply not getting the skinny on the weight issue. Doctors, who are supposed to be direct and stern about patient wellness, are not holding the line here. Discovery Fit and Health reported that fewer than 25 percent of parents with overweight or obese children recall their primary care physicians mentioning it to them during annual checkups.

The results of a recent study published in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at the long-term obesity and cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic risk in U.S. adults. And the view was grim.

The purpose of the study was to see if and how those with Body Mass Indexes (BMI) that placed them in the overweight or obese categories by the age of 25 were at greater risk for becoming obese or morbidly obese later in life. The answer was clear.

When we talk about the weight issue, we also need to consider, perhaps first, emotional issues that lead behaviors. Our behaviors lead us to make good or bad choices concerning food, exercise, sleep, work, study, hobbies, and other lifestyle issues. How you think about your health and the seriousness with which you consider it (for you or your children) often dictates how to act about it.

Look, children don’t go grocery shopping, pack their own lunches, or make their own dinners. Parents do that for them. So in those important early years, children need strong parents, not doctors. But when the kids are raised eating crap food and allowed not to exercise, they learn a way of life that just does not support wellness or quality of life.

I am not one to preach, as I believe everyone needs to “own up” to their own issues. However, with some encouragement and simple tips, sometimes people can make the changes necessary to prevent serious illness and premature death later in their life or the lives of their children.

Here are some simple things that parents can do now to help prevent more people from reaching obesity by age 25:

  • Shop for whole foods and fresh vegetables and fruits. Stay away from packaged foods as often as possible.
  • Make a routine or even a ritual of cooking nutritious food at least once a day for you and your family. It takes a little longer and requires a bit more effort, but with homemade food, you can control for quality.
  • Limit flat screen time to 30 minutes a day or 15 minutes twice a day.
  • If your children want more screen time, do a “cap and trade” deal and exchange exercise points for screen time. Exercise 15 extra minutes by playing outside, running, jumping rope riding bikes, and what have you, and trade that time in for 15 more minutes of screen time.
  • Make a green smoothie for breakfast, with spinach, frozen fruit, and water to help start the day right. We do this every morning.
  • Pack your child’s lunch to avoid that nasty crap they offer in the lunchroom. Pack sandwiches, fruit, sliced veggies, organic cheese crackers, etc, where you can control for calories and variety.
  • Make a point to walk whenever possible, to the bus stop, up the stairs instead of taking elevators or escalators, around the block before and after dinner as family time that also counts as calorie burning time.

There are so many ways to prevent premature death and disease, but they all take some thought, planning, time, and commitment. But what better reason is there to do all of that than for your own health and that of your loved ones? And it only takes a few weeks to make a new routine become habitual. It all gets easier from there.